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Happy 150th to Yankton – but when?

Yankton, South Dakota (AP) 8-08

Local historians say it’s time to settle on a birth date – or at least a birth year – so Yankton can celebrate its 150th.

“I hate to say it, being someone who should probably know, but it just depends on what you want to celebrate,” said Crystal Mensch, director of the Dakota Territorial Museum in Yankton. “Do you celebrate the (treaty) signing? Do you celebrate the first settler? Do you celebrate the founding as when the Native Americans left and whites got full possession?

“I guess it’s up to the community to decide.”

It was 150 years ago this year – April 1858 – that the Yankton Sioux signed a treaty to sell to the United States government the 14 million acres that would become Dakota Territory.

But the document wasn’t ratified until the next year. That’s when the Sioux, led by Chief Struck-by-the-Ree, left the campsite that would become Yankton. White settlers then started moving to the area, and there were 22 white adults in Yankton by Christmas 1859.

That’s also the year of the appointment of the community’s first postmaster, who also built the first frame building.

In 1861, Yankton was made capital of Dakota Territory.

Yankton was incorporated in 1862 and received its municipal charter in 1869.

“You could go on and on and on with dates,” Mensch said.

Community leaders decided to celebrate Yankton’s centennial in 1961 in connection with the wider Dakota Territory centennial. 

 

“That 1961 celebration kind of overshadowed everything,” said Doug Sall, former director of the Dakota Territorial Museum. “It was really the territorial thing but, because it was here, it complicated things.”

Nearby St. Helena, Neb., celebrates its 150th on Aug. 31, and Vermillion has sesquicentennial events planned throughout 2009.

Vermillion officials say its date is based on the year white pioneers began settling the city.

Mensch said she favors using the same criteria for Yankton’s beginning, which also would mean a 2009 celebration. If the community agrees, planning will have to start soon, she said.

“If 2009 is the appropriate time for us to be celebrating our 150th anniversary, then we need to make a decision within the next month or so,” said Lisa Scheve, Yankton Convention and Visitors Bureau director. “That way, we can start planning events and coordinating. If we’re going to do something, we need to make sure the correct planning goes into it. We want to make sure it is an event we can be proud of.”

 

 

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