On October 1, 1889, the South Dakota State Constitution was adopted alongside the approval of the state seal. However, the state seal had been in existence since 1885 when the first drafting of the state constitution occurred.
Dr. Joseph Ward, founder of Yankton College, chaired the Seal and Coat of Arms Committee during the Constitutional Convention of 1885. Dr. Ward and his committee penned the original description of the seal, which at the time was still a “Dakota” seal, as North and South Dakota had not yet achieved statehood.
Several changes from the original 1885 seal to the present seal were adopted during the Constitutional Convention of 1889, which was held in Sioux Falls. The original seal called for “pictures of mining work” which was changed to “other features of mining work.” And most importantly, the phrase “State of Dakota” in the 1885 seal was changed to “State of South Dakota” in 1889.
A standardized color version of the state seal was not adopted until 1986. Mitchell Artist Richard Coop Richard Coop designed the official seal in magic marker, which is now the basis for all reproductions of the seal. Coop’s version was later revised by John Moisan of Fort Pierre.
In 2016, Moisan penned a letter in which he recalled viewing the official state seal in a vault in the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office. However, having been designed in magic marker, the colors on the seal had since faded and were no longer distinguishable. When Moisan brought the issue to the attention of then-Governor Janklow, Janklow instructed him to paint a new state seal, which later hung behind the governor’s desk.
A full description of the state seal can be found in Article 21 of the South Dakota Constitution. The full contents of Moisan’s letter regarding his recollection of his work on the seal is available on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.