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South Dakota (U.S.)

Last modified: 2021-12-04 by rick wyatt
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[Flag of South Dakota] image by Clay Moss, 16 February 2009

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In 1890, five stars were added, representing Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington, bringing the total number of stars on the U.S. flag to 43. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.

Legal Description

South Dakota Codified Laws
Section 1-6-4. State flag - Description. The state flag or banner shall consist of a field of sky-blue one and two-thirds as long as it is wide. Centered on such field shall be the great seal of South Dakota made in conformity with the terms of the Constitution, which shall be four-ninths the width of the flag in diameter. The seal shall be on a white background with the seal outlined in dark blue or, in the alternative, shall be on a sky-blue background with the seal outlined in dark blue thereon. Surrounding the seal in gold shall be a serrated sun whose extreme width shall be five-ninths the width of the flag. The words "South Dakota" symmetrically arranged to conform to the circle of the sun and seal shall appear in gold letters one-eighteenth the width of the field above the sun and seal and the words "The Mount Rushmore State" in like-sized gold letters and in like arrangement shall appear below the sun and seal. Flags designed of such material as may be provident for outdoor use need have no fringe but flags for indoor and display usage shall have a golden fringe one-eighteenth the width of the flag on the three sides other than the hoist.
Joe McMillan, 20 February 2000

Many South Dakota flag illustrations are drawn with black lines in the actual state seal. Virtually all U.S. made SD flags that I have seen are made with dark blue state seal lines.
Clay Moss, 16 February 2009

Significant dates

The flag was adopted in 1909 with the sun on the front and the seal on the back. In 1963 both sides were made the same with the sun's rays around the field. In the late 1980's the motto "The Sunshine State" was changed to "The Mount Rushmore State".
Nick Artimovich, 31 July 1996

The flag of South Dakota adopted in 1909 was double-sided. Inspired by a song, 'South Dakota Is the Sunshine State', the designers chose a blue field with a yellow sun surrounded by the name South Dakota and the motto "The Sunshine State." On the other side was the state seal. A two-sided flag became too expensive to produce in large quantities, so in 1963 legislation was passed that added the seal to the center of the sun and made the design the same on both sides. Legislation enacted in 1992 changed the official state nickname to the Mount Rushmore State, and the flag design was altered to reflect the change. Flags made before July 1, 1992, however, remained legal.
Olivier Touzeau, 25 August 2001

Change of the wording on the flag

[Previous Flag of South Dakota] image by Clay Moss, 17 February 2009

In 1992 legislative action changed the wording on the flag of South Dakota from THE SUNSHINE STATE to THE MOUNT RUSHMORE STATE.

This change was the reason why the Bureau of Administration, Division of Central Services, The State Flag Account, issued the booklet "History of the South Dakota State Flag". Available at the Secretary of State; State Capitol - suite # 204; 500 East Capitol; Pierre, SD 57501-5077.
Jos Poels, 4 August 1995

The reason for the change is because "The Sunshine State" is already Florida's motto. In my honest opinion, if I were asked which state comes to mind with that motto, Florida would be much higher on my list than South Dakota.
David Kendall, 17 December 1996

South Dakota's previous flag flew from 1963 to 1992. The only difference in this flag and the current flag is the nickname written on the flag. The current flag has THE MOUNT RUSHMORE STATE printed in semi-circular fashion below the state seal while this flag displays the old nickname THE SUNSHINE STATE. The flag law ushering in the current flag stipulated that all previous state flags were considered official until supplies were exhausted.
Clay Moss, 17 February 2009

State Seal

[Seal of South Dakota] image by Clay Moss, 11 April 2009

South Dakota Codified Laws
Section 1-6-2. Design of seal and coat of arms. The design of the colored seal of the state of South Dakota shall be as follows: An inner circle, whose diameter shall be five-sevenths of the diameter of the outer circle of any seal produced in conformity herewith; within which inner circle shall appear; in the left foreground on the left bank of a river, a rust-colored smelting furnace from which grey smoke spirals upward and adjacent to which on the left are a rust-colored hoist house and mill, and to the left a grey dump; these three structures being set in a yellow field and above and back of a light green grove on the left bank of the river. In the left background is a series of three ranges of hills, the nearer range being a darker green than the said grove, the intermediate range of a blue-green and the higher range of a blue-black coloration. In the right foreground is a farmer with black hat, red shirt, navy-blue trousers and black boots, holding a black and silver breaking plow, drawn by a matched team of brown horses with a black harness. In the right background and above the horses in a pasture of grey-green, a herd of rust-colored cattle graze in front of a field of yellow-brown corn, part in shock and part in cut rows to the rear and above which are blue and purple hills forming a low background and receding into the distance. Between the right and left foregrounds and backgrounds is a light-blue river merging in the distance into a sky-blue and cloudless sky. Moving upstream on the river is a white steamboat with a single black funnel from which grey smoke spirals upward. Green shrubbery appears on the near bank of the river, in the left foreground and on the right bank of the river near the pasture is a yellow field. The farmer is turning black-brown furrows which reach across the circle and in his foreground is a field of brown-green-yellow. Near the upper edge of the inner circle at the top on a golden quarter circle which is one-fifth in width the distance between the innermost and the outermost circles that compose the seal, shall appear in black, the state motto: "Under God the People Rule." This innermost circle is circumscribed by a golden band one-fourth as wide as the above-described quarter circle, which inner border, shall be circumscribed by a deep blue circle four and one-half times as wide as the above quarter circle, on which in golden letters one-third its width, in height, shall appear at the top the words, "State of South Dakota." In the lower half of the deep blue circle shall appear in words of equal height "Great" and "Seal" between which shall be the numerals "1889." Between the above-stated names and on either side shall appear a golden star one-half in size the width of the deep blue circle. Circumscribing this deep blue circle shall be a band of gold of the same width as of the inner golden band. Outside of this outer golden band shall be a serrated or saw-toothed edge of small triangles whose base shall be of the same width as the above quarter circle.
Joe McMillan, 20 February 2000

Proposals to change the flag

It looks like the process has started to get a new flag for South Dakota. News reports are to be found here (amongst many others):

[2012 South Dakota proposal] image located by Jos Poels, 29 January 2012

The House Bill 1235 is downloadable here:, which states:

Section 2. That § 1-6-4 be amended to read as follows: 4 1-6-4.
The state flag or banner shall consist of a field of sky-blue one and two-thirds as long 5 as it is wide. Centered on the field shall be a reproduction of the artwork designed by artist Dick Termes of Spearfish featuring a red medicine wheel surrounded by yellow geometric rays of sunshine over concentric blue and dark blue circles on a sky blue background. The extreme width of the geometric rays of sunshine shall be five-ninths the width of the flag. The artwork shall be the basis for all reproductions of the official flag of the State of South Dakota.
Jos Poels, 29 January 2012

State Military Crest

image by Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

The state military crest, which is the crest used in the coats of arms of units of the National Guard, as granted by the precursor organizations of what is now the Army Institute of Heraldry. The official Institute of Heraldry blazon is "A coyote statant proper."
Joe McMillan, 21 April 2000

Dakota Territory Flag

The website at alludes to a Dakota Territory flag. As far as I could understand from various sources, the flag was blue with the U.S. coat of arms (of that era) on it. It seems very similar to the current North Dakota flag.
Valentin Poposki, 26 September 2009

According to the South Dakota Magazine, territories did not have their own flags. They flew the U.S. Flag only. They did have official seals and that of the Dakota Territory is now used on the North Dakota flag. The Magazine is not 100% sure that they are right.
Steve Shumaker, 28 September 2009