South Dakota News Watch


Legalization votes bring worries of increased youth marijuana use, but evidence remains murky

One major concern of South Dakotans who opposed legalization of medical and recreational marijuana was that it could lead to an epidemic of youth use of the drug. Drug-abuse prevention advocates and law enforcement officials said greater availability of marijuana would almost certainly lead to an increase of use among children and teens whose brains are still developing. Despite their […]

Tribal COVID-19 precautions hurting businesses on South Dakota reservations

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses on Native American reservations in South Dakota as tribal councils have mandated business closures, banned gatherings and told tourists to stay away to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in their vulnerable communities. Tribal governments took aggressive action against the spread of COVID-19 early on during the pandemic. Some reservations closed their borders to visitors, […]

S.D. election officials take new approaches to voting amid pandemic

Editor’s note: This article was produced through a partnership between South Dakota News Watch and the Solutions Journalism Network, a national non-profit group that supports rigorous journalism about responses to problems. South Dakota election officials are taking a wide range of steps — and implementing some creative measures — to ensure easy access to voting and provide for an accurate […]

Isolation hurting health of long-term care residents in S.D.


As nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have restricted the movements of residents and eliminated most in-person visits by friends and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an unexpected elderly health crisis has emerged in South Dakota and across the country. The mental and physical health of many residents of long-term care facilities are declining and in some cases leading to death […]

How one Native American tribe in S.D. created its own wireless education network

Editor’s note: This article was produced through a partnership between South Dakota News Watch and the Solutions Journalism Network, a national non-profit group that supports rigorous journalism about responses to problems. A South Dakota Native American tribe has solved one of the biggest challenges facing tribal schools amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic by developing a plan to provide computers and […]

Pandemic brings new challenges to education system on Native American reservations in S.D.


The COVID-19 pandemic has made providing a quality, culturally relevant education to the children on South Dakota’s nine Native American reservations more difficult than ever. Even as schools have provided students with new learning tools and better internet access, the widespread move to remote teaching and learning has educators worried that the longer the pandemic continues, the further their Native […]

CDC report on Smithfield COVID-19 outbreak in Sioux Falls was redone with ‘watered down’ safety recommendations


The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a final report on a massive COVID-19 outbreak at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, then retracted that report and redid a second final report with much less stringent worker-safety recommendations. The first report was dated April 21, 2020, and included 15 pages of recommendations for improved safety. The second […]

South Dakota criminal and civil traffic laws favor drivers over pedestrians in collisions

South Dakota traffic laws place more responsibility on pedestrians to be on the lookout for errant drivers than they do for drivers to watch out for walkers, joggers and cyclists when it comes to assigning liability in vehicle versus pedestrian accidents. The state criminal and civil laws are unique among Great Plains states in the high level of responsibility for […]

S.D. sheep farmers hurting as pandemic reduces demand and processing capacity

In March 2020, the sheep-farming industry in South Dakota — the sixth-largest in the country — was humming along nicely. After a few sluggish decades, prices for meat and wool were at or near all-time highs and markets were stable. Fine-dining restaurants and the cruise-line industry continued to fuel strong demand for South Dakota lamb. And the annual massive sales […]

Crash experts question Ravnsborg’s car-deer explanation

An experienced traffic-accident reconstruction expert is casting doubt on the claim made by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg that he thought he hit a deer with his car the night of Sept. 12 when in fact he had struck and killed a man. Kurt Weiss is a mechanical engineer who has 34 years of experience in reconstructing hundreds of […]

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