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School and Public Lands, Dept. of

 Record Group
Identifier: SPL


  • 1883 - 1983

Administrative History

When South Dakota became a state in 1889, the federal government granted the state over 3.5 million acres of land. In each township sections 16 and 36 were to be used for schools and other public purposes. These are known as common school lands. If these sections were already settled, the government provided replacement lands known as indemnity lands.

Additional lands were also provided and could be divided as the State wished. The South Dakota Constitution divided these lands between the state's universities, the School for the Visually Handicapped, the School for the Deaf, State Training School, and the Developmental Center in Redfield.

To manage these lands and the money they generated, the constitution established the Office of the Commissioner of School and Public Lands.

According to the constitution, common school and indemnity lands were either to be sold or leased and the proceeds deposited in a permanent trust fund for education. The principal could be increased, but never diminished. Interest from the fund was to be used for funding education.

Each year the office returns approximately $12 million to school districts and endowed institutions. The money is generated from grazing, mineral, oil and gas leases, interest on the Common School Permanent Fund, and interest on land sales contracts.


221.25 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Guide to the Records of the Department of School and Public Lands
In Process
Sara Casper, Government Records Archivist
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Edition statement
1st Edition

Repository Details

Part of the South Dakota State Archives Repository

900 Governors Dr
Pierre South Dakota 57501 USA
605-773-6041 (Fax)