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For Teachers

Archives collections contain original documentation of the past that even the best written source cannot convey. By using primary sources you will expose your students to important historical concepts.

Students will realize that written history is merely the author's interpretation of the past. Rather than viewing history as a series of facts and dates in their textbook, students will realize that their book is just one interpretation of the events described by the author. Historians have biases created by their own personal situations and the social environments in which they live. Students will begin to form their own opinions based on evidence and original sources.

Primary sources humanize history. Students are fascinated by the human emotions and the values and attitudes of the past reflected in personal writings. Primary sources add color and excitement to history as they link students directly to individuals from the past.

The use of primary sources develops important analytical skills. History trains students to gather, sift, and evaluate evidence. Students learn how bias and point of view affect evidence, what contradictions exist within a source, and how reliable their sources are. Development of these skills are important to students in all aspects of their lives, including historical research.

South Dakota History Day

National History Day is a way for students to study and learn about historical issues, ideas, people, and events. The year-long educational program for grades 6-12 fosters academic achievement and intellectual growth in participants. The program consists of a series of district, state, and national competitions centered around an annual theme that is announced in September. Students conduct research, then present their findings in imaginative exhibits, original performances, media presentations, and papers in junior and senior divisions of seven different categories. Historians, educators, and professionals in related fields then evaluate each project.

2023 Theme:

Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas

National History Day
South Dakota History Day

State Archives Resources

History Day Tips
Preparing for Research


Teaching with Primary Sources (Elementary School)
Primary sources are first hand materials written at a specific time and concerning a specific topic in history. The following activities use maps from the South Dakota Digital Archives to give students a glimpse of the past and encourage critical thinking. These activities are aimed at elementary school level students.

Map Activity: "Good Roads Everywhere," 1916

    Student Worksheet
    Teacher Answer Key and Notes
    Printable "Good Roads Everywhere" Map
    Printable Official State Highway Map

Map Activity: Standard Oil Company "Official Road Map," 1930

Student Worksheet
    Teacher Answer Key and Notes
    Printable "Official Road Map"

Teaching with Primary Sources (High School and College)

Primary sources are first hand materials written at a specific time and concerning a specific topic in history. Students can learn about historical events from the individuals who lived them.

The primary audience for these sources are older High School and College age students.

The links offer primary source materials on several historical topics relating to South Dakota and South Dakotans. Each source has five questions at the end for students to answer. These questions will help students comprehend the importance of these sources.

Yankton's Early Days
Early History of the Black Hills
Homesteading in Dakota
Women's Suffrage in SD
WWI Diary - Leo Ihli**
WWII Letters - Steve Cihak
Vietnam - Returning Home

** Note: Some content may not be suitable for younger students.

Vietnam - Oral History


Chapter 9 is an excerpt from the oral interview of David H. Hansen. This chapter is 6 minutes 8 seconds in duration.The interview was conducted by Thomas Magedanz on behalf of the Vietnam Era Veterans Association, Inc. (Vietnam Veterans Oral History Collection, 96-7.)


1. After listening to the oral history interview, what questions does this raise in your mind about life for the United States soldier in Vietnam?
2. Describe a typical day for David.
3. As a tool of communicating a past event, what do you think are the strengths or weaknesses of oral histories?
4. Can you describe some of the items that were hauled in the heuy's?

In 1986, the South Dakota Vietnam Veterans Oral History Project compiled oral history interviews. Thirty three veterans gave interviews on various topics relating to Vietnam including: basic training, the trip to Vietnam, being in the field, helicopter and aircraft stories, support groups, the Vietnamese, and their general thoughts on the war and the country.

Chief Warrant Officer-2 David H. Hansen grew up in South Dakota. He was sent to Vietnam in 1969 where he served with the 101st Airborne Division based in Phu Bai and LZ Sally. He flew Huey helicopters. He held the Bronze Star, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart among other campaign and service medals. He returned to the United States in 1970.
South Dakota Treasure Chest for 4th Grade History
Other Online Resources
Native Land - An app to help map Indigenous territories, treaties, and languages.
Fun with History
Here are some fun history-related activities for students of all ages.

Coloring Pages

Alice Tollefson - This page is based on a photo from the South Dakota Digital Archives of Alice Tollefson campaigning to be the Union County Superintendent of Schools in 1910. Although South Dakota women did not receive the right to vote in general elections until 1918, they were able to vote in school elections and hold some school-related offices as early as 1887. Image created by Liz Almlie.
Harvest Sale - Image taken from the August 22, 1913 issue of the Dakota Farmers' Leader newspaper (Canton, SD).
Turkey's Revenge - Cartoon taken from the November 25, 1910 issue of the Kingsbury County Independent newspaper (DeSmet, SD).
Stained Glass Santa - Illustration taken from the December 25, 1891 issue of the Brookings Register newspaper.
Santa Caught Delivering Presents - Illustration from the November 9, 1916 issue of the Saturday News (Watertown, SD).
Santa Claus Headquarters - Image from the December 16, 1904 issue of the Kingsbury County Independent newspaper (DeSmet, SD).
Butter Churn - Image taken from the August 2, 1889 issue of the Big Stone City Herald newspaper.
Cat Love - Image from the December 13, 1900 issue of the Turner County Herald (Hurley, SD).
Easter Dresses - Image from the February 27, 1893 issue of the Madison Daily Leader.
Sisseton Circus - Image from the June 30, 1911 issue of the Sisseton Weekly Standard.

Family Tree - Use this tree to inspire future genealogists. Download PDF / Download DOCX

Online Jigsaw Puzzles - These puzzles feature historical photos from the State Archives' collections.

South Dakota History Trivia - Test your knowledge of South Dakota history with this online quiz!

Cemetery Symbolism Quiz - Take this quiz to learn more about the symbols on grave markers. Quiz / Answer Key


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