So Just How Norwegian Is South Dakota?
I moved to South Dakota in 1974 and it didn't take me long to realize there were a lot of folks with Norwegian heritage that lived in the Mt. Rushmore State. And they were happy and proud to let you know it!
I grew up not far from South Dakota, just over the border a bit there in Minnesota. And in my little rural area (Leota/Edgerton/Chandler) it was Dutch, Dutch, and more Dutch. As a little kid, I was pretty sure the entire country had to have ancestors from the 'old country'...and that old country was the Netherlands.
But I soon learned that wasn't true.
Proud Norwegians...they're everywhere, they're everywhere! I did a little checking on the lefse and lutefisk crowd to see how many called South Dakota home. I discovered that in the 1860 census (that's eighteen sixty) there were just 129 Norwegians in the state. But that changed in a hurry. By 1889 fully a third of the population called themselves Norwegians. Towns like Roslyn and Pierpont were virtually 100% Norwegian. And through the years South Dakota has had a number of Governors with Norwegian ancestry. Heck, Nils Boe, and Sigurd Anderson were born in Norway.
And of course, the Norwegian folks have had a huge and positive influence on our state. Did you know that Canton was once home to Norwegian Lutheran which became Augustana College Which became Augustana University? And you must know about Norwegian cuisine...particularly lefse and lutefisk. Yes, some call lutefisk an 'acquired taste'.
These days, at least as of 2009, about 14% of South Dakota's population identifies with Norwegian ancestry. But of course, if you head to certain towns and areas, that percentage would jump to nearly 100%.
Oh and as for me and the Dutch? Well, I'll just head to Platte. Or maybe New Holland.
The Best Mac & Cheese In South Dakota? It's In Sioux Falls!