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Unit 7


Notable South Dakotans, 1900-1950

Lesson 4
Oscar Howe and Francis Higbee Case

     In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt created the New Deal. This government program gave help to people during the Great Depression. This was a time of business failures and drought (read more about this in Unit 9). The New Deal gave jobs to unemployed workers. People could then pay their bills. In return, the country got roads, parks, dams, and works of art.

Oscar Howe

     As a child, Oscar Howe drew in the dirt with sticks because he did not have paper and pencils. He overcame many such troubles to become a great artist. Howe was a Yanktonais Nakota (Sioux). He was born on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in 1915. He started school at the Pierre Indian School. Then his troubles began. His mother died. An eye disease nearly blinded him. He got a painful skin disease. He went home to his grandmother to recover. She taught him many Nakota traditions and symbols. He used these in his paintings.

Oscar Howe
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society


Oscar Howe Mural in Mitchell
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society


     Howe later went back to school in New Mexico. Here he began studying art. He graduated second in his class from the art program at the Santa Fe Indian School. His work was shown in cities across the United States. Howe came back to South Dakota during the Great Depression. He began working for the Artists Project of the New Deal. He painted murals in Mitchell and Mobridge.

     The Second World War (learn about this in Unit 9) ended the New Deal. Howe served as a United States soldier. He went to North Africa and Europe. When he came home, he began to work at the Mitchell Corn Palace. He created murals of corn for this building. Howe also started his college education. When he was done, he worked as art director for the Pierre schools. Later he became a teacher at the University of South Dakota. Howe’s art is known around the world. He was artist laureate of South Dakota. He died in 1983, but his art lives on.


Francis Higbee Case

     Many changes followed the Second World War. Projects began on the Missouri River. Four big dams were built in South Dakota. They made irrigation possible in dry years. In wet years, they helped with flood control. The dams made hydroelectric power in all seasons.

Francis Case
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

     Francis Higbee Case helped bring these dams to South Dakota. He was born in Iowa in 1896. His family moved to Sturgis when he was thirteen years old. After college, Case went to work for the Rapid City Journal. He later worked for the Hot Springs Star and the Custer Chronicle. On the job, Case promoted the Black Hills. He asked President Calvin Coolidge to come to Custer State Park. Coolidge took his vacation there in 1927. Tourism boomed when the State Game Lodge became the Summer White House.

     In 1936, voters elected Case to the United States House of Representatives. He served seven terms in the House. He then moved to the Senate. In Washington, Case promoted dam projects. His efforts helped to fund four big dams on the Missouri River. Case was also known for his work for weather modification. He thought that scientists could change the weather. If it rained more, South Dakota farmers could grow more crops. Case also worked for better highways across the state and nation. He died in 1962.

Fort Randall Dam
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society

hydroelectric (adj.), making electricity by the force of running water

irrigation (n.), bringing water to dry land through ditches, pipes, or streams

murals (n.), paintings or other works of art done on a wall or ceiling

promoted (v.), pushed to the front

unemployed (adj.), out of work; jobless