Spirit of Dakota

South Dakota's Premier Woman's Award

Get Nomination Form

Established October 1986

Huron Event Center
Saturday October 6, 2018
3:00 PM Nominee Tea
4:00 PM Art Show Opens
5:30 PM Social
6:30 PM Award & Celebration Banquet
For banquet tickets call Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau - 605-352-0000
For hotel rooms call the Crossroads Hotel - 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.

2017 Spirit of Dakota Award Winner

Jean Wilkinson - DeSmet

Jean Wilkinson - 2017 Spirit of Dakota Award Winner

Strength. Endurance. Faith.

Jean Wilkinson of De Smet is the epitome of strength, endurance and faith – qualities that have made her the worthy recipient of the 2017 Spirit of Dakota Award. The award is presented to an outstanding South Dakota woman who has demonstrated leadership qualities and has been successful and admired in her community and state. This year’s recipient lives a life of honor and service to others and is deserving of this prestigious award.

If you asked Jean, she would never take credit for the countless acts of kindness that she has given throughout her life. Jean is a caring, compassionate, generous, unselfish, hardworking go-getter that doesn’t expect praise or recognition. She is a model of character and commitment to all. Without hesitation, Jean is quick to help anyone in need.

An example of Jean’s instinctive sense to help others – especially using her talents as a nurse – took  place on a Sunday morning at her church in De Smet. Jean was performing with the bell choir at the front of the church. At the back of the sanctuary, a little girl began choking on a piece of candy. Without missing a beat, and without causing a disturbance, Jean quietly left the bell choir, followed the little girl and her mother downstairs, performed the Heimlich maneuver, and then returned to the bell choir. Her lifesaving measures do not end there as she has served on the local ambulance crew for many years. Without hesitation, Jean would be the first one to leave her home and family any time of day or night to assist with whatever medical emergency occurring at the time. Never once to shy away from a difficult situation, Jean has been an invaluable asset to the De Smet ambulance crew, and worked for over 20 years as a registered nurse at De Smet Memorial Hospital.

Throughout her life, Jean has been the driving force behind making the world a better place – benefitting her church, her community, and the many organizations she and her husband, Todd, jointly have offered their time, talents, and treasures. Jean can be found almost any day of the week at the American Lutheran Church as the leader of the women’s group, coordinating the Meals on Wheels program, or preparing dinners for various church functions including the annual Harvest Festival.

Proud of the Little Town on the Prairie made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jean is a current and founding member of the De Smet Community Foundation. Recently the foundation received a $200,000 award from the Bush Foundation for community excellence. Among her other interests are the Kingsbury County Cattlemen’s and South Dakota Cattlemen’s Associations. As secretary-treasurer of the state organization, Jean has devoted countless hours each year to their charitable giving projects raising more than $725,000 in the last four years for Feeding South Dakota. Other groups benefitting from her involvement are the local and state snowmobiling associations – a passion she shares with her husband, Todd. As chairperson, she was instrumental in bringing the International Snowmobile Congress to South Dakota. Jean and Todd have also been active in the National Snowmobile Association.

All while Jean served in various leadership roles, she has continued to be a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband have three grown children, Nicholas, Nicole, and Michelle, and seven adorable grandchildren. Jean has worked in the family’s law office as well as being very involved in the family’s cattle and farm operation, along with other business endeavors. Together they have instilled in their children the importance of church, family, work, and service to others.

Jean’s deep faith have been tested in recent years as she battled major health issues leading not only to a lung transplant but later to needing a kidney transplant with her sister becoming the donor. During these difficult times and even today you will find Jean saying “Prayers go up. Blessings come down.” And once again, Jean has bounced back from these lengthy trials and has fortunately returned to many of the activities that she so dearly loves.

Jean Wilkinson is truly a visionary leader of her community and state and we are delighted to welcome her as the 2017 recipient of the Spirit of Dakota Award. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors as she continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to everyone she meets.

2017 Nominees 

  • Betty Belkham, Flandreau
  • Vivian Dobberpuhl, Conde
  • Genie M Ellis, Black Hawk
  • Rita Fraune, Hot Springs
  • Esther Eckmann Gilchrist, Hitchcock
  • Bernice Guy, Sisseton
  • Ashley Kingdon-Reese, Huron
  • Avis Little Eagle, McLaughlin
  • Ruth Neuberger, Canistota
  • Susan Fejfar Shrader, Tabor
  • Jean Wilkinson, DeSmet 

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, Brookings
  • 2016 - Susan DeLaney-Kary, Parmelee
  • 2017 - Jean Wilkinson, DeSmet



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
  • Mary Helen Wipf
  • Darcy Haber
  • Sarah Rubish
  • Erica McNeil
  • Jenny Sorben
  • Jane Meekins
  • Carol Milbrandt
  • Chery Dick
  • Sarah Radke

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