Spirit of Dakota

South Dakota's Premier Woman's Award

Get Nomination Form

Established October 1986

Huron Event Center
Saturday October 7, 2017
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.

2016 Spirit of Dakota Award Winner

Susan DeLaney-Kary - Parmelee

(Picture) Ginger Thomson, left, a member of the Spirit of Dakota selection committee and Marilyn Hoyt, right, chair of the Spirit of Dakota Award, present the framed rendition of the award to this year’s recipient, Susan Delaney Kary, Saturday night at the Huron Event Center.

 By plainsman staff

HURON — Susan DeLaney Kary may be the epitome of a pioneer woman. Driven. Persistent. Loving. Caring.

DeLaney Kary, of Parmelee, was selected as the recipient of the Spirit of Dakota award Saturday evening at the Huron Event Center. She is the 30th recipient of the award, named for the Dale Lamphere statue which stands outside the Event Center and has come to stand for the resiliency of the pioneer woman.

DeLaney Kary was nominated by her longtime friend Elaine Doll -Dunn of Spearfish, who noted that her friend still lives on the ranch which her family established in the late 1800s in one of the most remote areas in southern South Dakota. One of her grandsons earns a living on the ranch. He is the sixth generation to do so.

“I have always said that if you see a need and don’t lend a hand, you’ve failed,” Delaney Kary said in receiving the award.

“And I don’t like to fail.”

From riding her horse the five miles to a rural school as a young girl to attending high school in White River, DeLaney Kary knew that education would figure into her future.

She sold her calves when she graduated high school, using the money to finance her education at what was then Black Hills Normal School, where she obtained a teaching degree. She is a life-long learner, gathering an education from all age groups that she has had the honor of teaching.

She returned to the area of her youth, teaching first at the West Rosebud School, 30 miles from home. She taught at the Brunson School, west of White River, where she taught seven subjects to all eight grades, while also monitoring recess!

She earned a reputation as a great cook. With seven children, her advice was always to “Start with a big pot!” She was renowned for her pies as well.

But her true calling was in education, as she offered advice to all her students to “Go to school; you need to be able to feed your kids and you never know what will happen.”

One student who benefitted from the DeLaney Kary approach to education was Dr. Wayne Evans, who came to the ranch as a teenager, looking for a place to live. Evans earned his education degree and eventually a doctorate. Evans served as the Dean of Indian Affairs at USD until his retirement, but his roots were planted on the ranch near Parmelee.

“Susan and Al told me I could stay with them as long as I would go back to high school,” Dr. Evans wrote in his letter of support for DeLaney Kary. “That was the start of my life with Momma Susan and Dad Al.”

Evans said that the couple accepted his Native American heritage and encouraged him to learn more about it. “They embraced all cultures and combined a love of both,” Evans wrote. “They were always supportive and encouraged youth such as myself to make the best of their heritage and to continue to improve themselves through education. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today if it weren’t for Momma Susan and Dad Al.”

She has long been a champion of the Parmelee area, witnessed by Elsie Meeks, the S.D. director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development wing. Meeks wrote in her letter of recommendation that her family grew up in the same area and through the years their paths have crossed - first about 30 years ago, when DeLaney Kary wished to establish a rodeo in Parmelee and then more recently when she pressed Meeks as to why funding was not forthcoming to build a firehouse for the trucks and other equipment DeLaney Kary had secured from other communities, which were upgrading theirs.

“Susan said she had completed all the applications and couldn’t understand what the holdup could be,” Meeks wrote. “I looked into it and began to understand her frustration. The process was arduous and had not been a priority for staff.” Meeks related that three years after that phone call questioning where the funding was, and several years after submitting an application, funding was received and DeLaney Kary led a community ground breaking for the new fire hall.

“During that time,” Meeks related, “Susan continued to call and check on the application - always in a polite but firm manner - to see that it was being handled and processed. When the fire station was finally constructed, Susan led another community celebration.”

DeLaney Kary was chosen by the Spirit of Dakota selection committee from a field of eight nominees, Pat Duffy, Fort Pierre; Sue Gose, Huron; JoDean Joy, Miller; Gwenda Koch, Mitchell; Gail Ochs, Aberdeen; Dr. Susan Ostrowski, Eureka; and Christine VanNess, Hill City.

Marilyn Hoyt, the chair of the Spirit of Dakota Award, paid homage to the late Earl Nordby, on the evening of the 30th anniversary of that Spirit of Dakota Award was presented.

“The fact that the Spirit of Dakota Award has continued to honor South Dakota women  for 30 years, shows the vision that our innovator, Earl Nordby, had,” Hoyt said.

“We are so fortunate to have a Dale Lamphere statue, in bronze, in our community which is the inspiration for the award,” she added.

“Since it’s inception, the Spirit of Dakota has been Huron’s great gift to the women of South Dakota who accomplish so much.”


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



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