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Williams Provides History of South Dakota Legislative Districts

Cully Williams digs through Session Laws and sketches South Dakota Legislative districts throughout history. Williams’s maps show everything from the first legislative map of 1889, which made each of the 50 organized counties its own district with representatives proportionate to population (Brown had 8 Reps; Minnehaha had 7), to today’s Sparrow map.

County-based House districts remained the norm until 1971, the first redistricting after the Voting Rights Act, which the Legislature took as an opportunity to squiggle outside the county lines and to dilute Indian voting rights:

The 1981 Legislature split Indian voters in Martin while making Webster a wart on District 7 to protect them from all those Indians to the north:

Williams agrees with my sense that the current Sparrow map more fairly and rationally carved up Rapid City and Sioux Falls:

Click through the thread, see how your county has been represented and remapped over the last 132 years!


  1. Donald Pay 2022-08-30 14:22

    Interesting. It’s clear there has been systematic racial discrimination in drawing the voting districts in West River over many decades. Of course they will attempt to say they weren’t being racist, but just trying to gain a political advantage. Sure, sure. As Republicans gerrymandered for political advantage, they were also gerrymandering for racial advantage. Disgusting.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2022-08-30 16:18

    Great work, Cully. This is the type of historical research which proves the inherit racial bias which permeates South Dakota politics. I suppose you can trace it back to at least E.Y. Berry who as a multi-term Representative for Western South Dakota enunciated that bias and advocated for the under representation of Indian people, all the while parading around in a turkey feather headdress. Berry had great influence on the West River Republican Party in the legislature. The only advocate for Native American voting rights, that I recall, was Jim Abouresk, and the Chair of the Rosebud Reservation (Bourdeaux ?) back in the 70’s.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-08-30 18:43

    Is this depiction of anti-Indian legislative representation CRT? Should this research be banned from SD schools? CRT, in short, tells the story of how racism is imbedded into American and South Dakota government. What could be more representative of that “theory” than Cully’s excellent work?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-30 19:34

    PAitch, depicting the South Dakota Legislature’s historical use of redistricting to weaken Indian voter power certainly demonstrates persistent racism carried out by a governmental institution. That appears to be one of the important points critical race theorists point out as they highlight America’s history of systemic racism, but that lesson does not necessarily invoke one of the “inherently divisive concepts” Noem wishes to ban from K-12 social studies… since it is true.

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