Spirit of Dakota

South Dakota's Premier Woman's Award

Get Nomination Form

Established October 1987

Huron Event Center
Saturday October 1, 2016
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.

2015 Spirit of Dakota Award Winner

Mary Alice Woster Haug - Brookings

The people and places of the Dakota prairie have inspired this year’s Spirit of Dakota Award winner her entire life – as a teacher, storyteller, mentor, and author. Throughout her life, Mary Alice Woster Haug has demonstrated – often humbly and without fanfare – strength of character and courage in serving as a role model for past, present, and future generations.

A farmer’s daughter from Lyman County, Mary Alice grew up in a family where she and her siblings were surrounded by the music and stories of their Irish, piano-playing mother, and Bohemian, lyrical tenor father. Such DNA for vivid descriptions of land, people, and faith is evident in the writings of Mary and her brothers Jim, Terry, and Kevin, including a collection of writings she edited, The Woster Brothers Brand.

Mary Alice’s influence in the literary world began as a teacher – first as a high school instructor and later as an English professor at South Dakota State University where she chaired the Great Plains Writers Conference numerous times, advised the student English Club, received the College of Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award, and was presented the F.O. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award. At her retirement, Mary Alice was recognized for her stellar career receiving the status of Emeritus Professor – an honor earned only by the most accomplished and dedicated faculty.

Noted author Linda Hasselstrom described Mary Alice’s contributions to her students as being “incredibly valuable to the culture of our state and nation; hundreds of her students are out in the world, having learned the solid South Dakota values she imparted. But the legacy of her writing, I believe, her ability to reveal the pain and love behind the stoic façade many rural Dakotans affect, may last even longer, influencing Dakotans as well as others. The writer Mary Alice Woster Haug has contributed immensely – and will continue to contribute – to the cultural history of Dakota by revealing its people with compassion and courage as well as insight and sensitivity.”

Her influence goes beyond the classroom in so many ways – benefiting not only her family but also her community and her state. A passion for reading and improving literacy in adult readers led to her involvement with the South Dakota Humanities Council – chairing discussion groups throughout the state and participating in the South Dakota Festival of Books. She has also taught classes for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and has served on the Brookings Public Library Board and other community groups.

Her willingness to serve others without personal gain is shared with her husband, Ken, as they gladly host developmentally disabled adults in Brookings. Friends in need who have loved ones battling serious conditions gratefully talk about the respite Mary Alice provides them. Her blanket of compassion soothes and gives hope to those needing a warm smile and caring heart.

Family holds a very special place in her heart as she and Ken have one daughter, Maura, a son-in-law, Steve, and two grandchildren, Casey and Molly. Family is also the source of many of her writings – including her most recent publication, Daughters of the Grasslands.

A lifetime of commitment and service to others is truly deserving of recognition. Congratulations to Mary Alice Woster Haug for being selected the 2015 Spirit of Dakota Award recipient.

2015 Nominees 

  • Heather Christensen, Sioux Falls  
  • Ruth Eilers, Huron
  • Barb Garcia, Rapid City
  • Krysti Mikkonsen, Frederick
  • Vivian Opsal, Sisseton
  • Mary Alice Woster Haug, Brookings


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
  • 2015 - Mary Alice Woster Haug



Selection Commission

  • Tona Rozum, Chair - Mitchell
  • Glenna Fouberg - Aberdeen
  • Jean Hunhoff - Yankton
  • First Lady Linda Daugaard - Pierre
  • Suzette Kirby - Sioux Falls
  • 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