Spirit of Dakota

South Dakota's Premier Woman's Award

Get Nomination Form

Established October 1987

Huron Event Center
Saturday October 3, 2015
3:00 PM Nominee Tea
4:00 PM Art Show Opens
5:30 PM Social
6:30 PM Award & Celebration Banquet
For Banquet Reservations & Tickets: $25
Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau 605-352-0000
Crossroads Hotel for Rooms - 1-800-876-5858


Close August 1st


Nomination Forms
Please mail nominations to:
Spirit of Dakota Award Society
PO Box 280
Huron, SD 57350
Spirit of Dakota Event

Statement of Purpose & Criteria

Dakota Award

The Spirit of Dakota Award is an annual honor bestowed each fall by the Spirit of Dakota Award Society at a state-wide event at the Crossroads Hotel & Huron Event Center. The Spirit of Dakota award is given to:

  • An outstanding South Dakota woman who has demonstrated leadership qualities and has been successful and admired in her community and state.
  • A woman with roots deep in Dakota whose courage and strength of character have helped develop her family and community.
  • A woman who has represented social, cultural, and education advancement for others.
  • This award is not Mother of the Year, nor Teacher of the Year, nor categorized but rather a recognition of those outstanding women who have been the symbols of all that we are proud of in our Prairie Women.
  • The nominee does not need to be a native of South Dakota, but must be a current, living resident of the state.

History of Spirit of Dakota Award

The nine foot bronze sculpture "Spirit of Dakota" which stands at the entrance of the Crossroads Hotel & Huron Event Center is the source for the state-wide Spirit of Dakota Award. Dale Claude Lamphere, nationally recogonized sculptor and artist, is the creator. This sculpture of a pioneer woman balanced against the wind was unveiled and dedicated in October 1987 by the citizens of Huron and is the unique possession of this community.

Spirit of Dakota Award

Award Plaque

South Dakota's Premier Woman's Award

This prestigious Spirit of South Dakota award plaque is an outstanding piece of art; each individually created by renowned sculptor, Dale Claude Lamphere, and treasured by each honoree. A one-foot bronze oval is graced with the pioneer woman sculpted upon its facade. To further illuminate the award, the bronze oval is mounted on smoky black lucite which is etched with the award inscription. The final element of the honor is an 18x20 burnished gold wooden frame which securely hold the cherished woman.

2014 Spirit of Dakota Award Winner

Theresa Stehly - Sioux Falls

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." – Missionary Stephen Grellet (1773-1855)

The above quote could be the philosophy of Theresa Stehly as it describes her life so appropriately. Perhaps Theresa was born with a "caring" gene as she truly cares about other people and uses her talents to make their lives better.

Theresa has demonstrated her leadership qualities in many ways. Speaking up for what you believe is difficult and intimidating for many people. It takes courage – the kind of courage this Sioux Falls resident drew upon to organize a petition drive to place on the city ballot the question of purchasing snowgates to ease snow removal. The petition drive was successful and a favorable vote was taken on the issue in April 2014.

This citizen advocate led another successful petition drive when a neighborhood swimming pool was going to be demolished. Theresa was concerned that the children in the pool's vicinity – many from low-income households – would lose this neighborhood source of recreation. Theresa put her leadership abilities into action and enlisted others sharing her concern about this potential loss. A petition drive collected enough signatures to place the issue of saving Drake Springs pool to a public vote. Again, voters sided with Theresa's foresight of saving this neighborhood treasure.

Theresa has a willingness to serve others with vision and purpose without personal gain. Throughout the years, she has "adopted" a number of elderly or ill friends who did not have family nearby. She has comforted them, brought them flowers from her garden, taken them to doctors' appointments, crocheted over 30 prayer shawls, written words of encouragement to them, and in countless other ways have shown her compassion and deep faith. She is responsible for "Care Notes" at her church – a four-page publication addressing a variety of concerns including being a caregiver, dealing with cancer, coping with addictions, and other life-changing situations. Theresa's compassionate nature led her to reach out to inmates at the state penitentiary by providing a religious publication – "The Daily Word" – as a way to offer them spiritual encouragement.

Among her many interests is sharing her love of music with others. As a private piano and voice instructor and adjunct professor of voice at the University of Sioux Falls, she has inspired students for the past several years. She has served in leadership roles in the Sioux Falls Music Teachers Association and the Community Concert Association. She has served as church choir director and assisted with music festivals and competitions. She once joined a mission trip to Jamaica and taught music classes when she wasn't helping her team with other work including painting a house. In all these activities, she connects with others in a way that is caring and encouraging, knowing that how you treat an individual can impact a life forever.

Throughout her life, Theresa has exemplified a daring and bold spirit that emulates the true spirit of pioneer women. The Spirit of Dakota Society is honored to name Theresa Stehly as the 2014 Spirit of Dakota Award recipient.

2014 Nominees 

  • Julaine Arient-Rollman, Rapid City  
  • Wanda Drake, Lake Norden
  • Shirley Eisnach, Pierre
  • Rozella Glanzer, Huron
  • Melissa Johnson, Aberdeen
  • Linda Rabe, Rapid City
  • Lorraine Rousseau, Sisseton
  • Theresa Stehly, Sioux Falls
  • Renee Sutton, Burke
  • Louann Streff, Clark
  • Gretchen Tweet, Sioux Falls
  • Suzi Vail, Leganon
  • Karen Wagner, Belle Fourche


Distinguished Honorees

  • 1987 - *Mrs. Winifred Lorentson, Miller
  • 1988 - *Dr. Jeanie K. Sherman, Madison
  • 1989 - *Florence Bruhn, Watertown
  • 1990 - *Jeanette Lusk, Huron
  • 1991 - *Dorothy (D.J.) Cline, Brookings
  • 1992 - No Award Presentaion
  • 1993 - *Ruth Ziolkowski, Custer
  • 1994 - Sylvia Henkin., Sioux Falls
  • 1995 - Irene Fisher Coon, Sioux Falls
  • 1996 - Hildreth Twostars Venegas, Sisseton
  • 1997 - Lorraine Huntimer, Oldham
  • 1998 - Mary Lou Tripp, Belle Fourche
  • 1999- Marsha Sumpter, Phillip
  • 2000- *Donna Schipke, Newell
  • 2001 - Phyllis White Eyes DeCory, Rapid City
  • 2002 - Virginia Keil Lardinois, Huron
  • 2003 - Patricia Fawcett, Ree Heights
  • 2004 - *Alice Kundert, Mound City
  • 2005 - No Award Presentation
  • 2006 - Janice Manolis, Huron
  • 2007 - June James, Hazel
  • 2008 - Elaine Doll-Dunn, Spearfish
  • 2009 - Julie Garreau, Eagle Butte
  • 2010 - Dorothy Kellogg, Watertown
  • 2011 - Millie Humphrey, Whitewood
  • 2012 - Mary J. Milroy, MD, Yankton
  • 2013- Patricia Baird, Custer
  • 2014 - Theresa Stehly, Sioux Falls



Selection Commission

  • Bette Poppen, Chair - DeSmet
  • Glenna Fouberg - Aberdeen
  • Jean Hunhoff - Yankton
  • First Lady Linda Daugaard - Pierre
  • Suzette Kirby - Sioux Falls
  • Tona Rozum - Mitchell
  • Julie Garreau - Eagle Buttte
  • Marsha Sumpter - Kadoka
  • Ginger Thomson - Brookings
  • Judy Trzynka - Watertown
  • Bev Wright - Turton

Spirit of Dakota Award Society

Marilyn Hoyt, Chairman

  • Beckie Freeman
  • Deannie LeRoux
  • Rosemary Moeller
  • Shelley Noonan
  • Mary Pearson
  • Bette Poppen
  • Terri Anderson-Schlader
  • Linda Schwartz
  • JoAnne Thurnbeck
  • Mary Walz
  • Mary Helen Wipf
  • Darcy Haber
  • Sarah Rubish
  • Erica McNeil
  • Jenny Sorben
  • Jane Meekins