South Dakota Assignments: Fun Things to Do

When you bring medical care to IHS facilities on a South Dakota assignment, you enjoy an exciting opportunity to improve healthcare for underserved tribal communities. It’s hard but rewarding work in the heart of the Midwest.

While on assignment, we have some suggestions to make the most of your free time. Here you’ll find a rich history, incredible culture, and breathtaking natural landscapes – offering plenty to learn, see, and do.

Explore South Dakota’s Great Outdoors

While South Dakota clocks in at more than 77,000 square miles, it’s sparsely populated. You’ll see lots of wide-open spaces. In fact, more than half of the state is dominated by the Great Plains, characterized by rolling hills, lush grasslands, and herds of deer and bison. Lace up your hiking boots and check out these outdoor destinations:

  • Find Strange Landscapes at Badlands National Park – One of the greatest draws to South Dakota is Badlands National Park. The Badlands are unlike any other place in the United States, with rugged mountains, canyons, and cliffs. It’s also a renowned archaeological site, known for abundant fossil deposits.
  • Descend into Some of the World’s Largest Cave Systems – Wind Cave National Park includes an extensive and complex cave system, with nearly 150 miles of explored cave passageways. Visitors can see the rare, honeycomb-like geologic formation known as “box work.” The cave is sacred to the Sioux, who believe it is where humans first emerged into the modern world. The nearby Jewel Cave National Monument is the third-longest cave in the world.   

Discover the State’s Arts and Culture 

Native American communities influence South Dakota’s culture, but so do customs intrinsic to the American Midwest and West and newer traditions from various immigrant groups. Here you’ll find anything from peculiar architecture to ancient petroglyphs and world-class museums. The state’s scenery and people inspired classic works of art and literature. Consider these unforgettable experiences: 

  • See a Traditional Powwow – Native American powwows are a traditional celebration of spirituality and community, involving dancing, singing, elaborate regalia, and honoring Indigenous culture. They may include vendors with arts, crafts, beadwork, quillwork, and traditional food for sale. Powwows may be public or invitation-only. Of course, if you’re a non-Native attendee, be respectful of the space and participants, and follow proper etiquette.
  • Visit the Unique Corn Palace – Originally constructed in the late 19th century to attract settlers to the area, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota serves as a one-of-a-kind tourist destination. The Palace’s exterior murals are made from corn and then replaced with a new design and theme every year. It has also hosted several notable concerts, including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Weird Al Yankovic. 

Join South Dakotans in Local Events and Celebrations 

During the summer, South Dakotans enjoy getting outside for rodeos, arts festivals, and the picturesque State Fair. Winters are long and cold, but made more enjoyable with holiday markets, light parades, and snocross races. Don’t miss these quintessential South Dakotan events:

  • Witness a Buffalo Roundup – Ever wanted to see cowboys and cowgirls wrangle a herd of bison? Now’s your chance – at the annual Buffalo Roundup, held at the Custer State Park in western South Dakota in late September. The roundup is part of the park’s conservation efforts, balancing the bison population with available range land. The bison are then corralled, vaccinated, and sold at auction. 
  • Watch Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Story Come to Life – Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of the state’s most famous pioneers, immortalized her life’s story in the Little House on the Prairie book series. Now, her experience comes to the stage with the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant, held every year in De Smet, South Dakota. The event reenacts Ingalls Wilder’s book The Long Winter, about De Smet’s harsh 1880-81 winter season.

Whether you’re spelunking in a cave, marveling at impressive corn murals or seeing an authentic bison round-up, there’s something for every weekend on a South Dakota assignment. What are you waiting for?  Explore opportunities in South Dakota and elsewhere with Tribal EM.

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