The office of the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota sees its roots in the United States Attorney for the District of Dakota Territory. Including parts of what are today Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming along with all of what is North Dakota and South Dakota today, Dakota Territory was largely Lakota land ceded to the United States by the Yankton Treaty in 1858. In Sioux languages, Dakota means “allies.” Dakota Territory officially became an organized territory on March 2, 1861, shortly before Abraham Lincoln took his office. In 1863 the size of the territory was reduced to the area that is today North and South Dakota. From 1861 to 1883, the territorial capital was Yankton, now South Dakota. In 1883, the territorial capital was moved to Bismarck, now North Dakota, where it would remain until statehood. Coincidentally, the first governor of the Dakota Territory was President Abraham Lincoln’s own personal physician, William A. Jayne. The first territorial court of Dakota Territory was established in 1861 in Yankton. The first United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota was William E. Gleason.
The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota currently hears cases in four locations: Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. The federal building & courthouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was constructed from 1892-1895. In 1895, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Judge Alonzo J. Edgerton to be the first judge to occupy the courthouse. In 1911, the first major addition occurred, extending the building to the east and adding a third story to the building. This addition was completed in 1913. In 1931, another addition occurred, adding the two-story wing to the rear of the building. This addition was completed in 1933. In 1968, the post office moved out of the building – resulting in modification to both the interior and exterior of the building. In 1974, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota employs around sixty people, including nearly thirty Assistant United States Attorneys. The district’s headquarters are in Sioux Falls, with branch offices in Rapid City, Pierre, and Aberdeen – corresponding with where the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota hears cases.