Commissioner Brock Greenfield

History of School and Public Lands

"The Commissioner of School and Public Lands shall have the direction, management, and control of all lands heretofore granted or which may hereafter be granted to this state by the United States..."

When South Dakota became a state in 1889, the federal government granted the state over 3.5 million acres of land. In each township sections 16 and 36 were to be used for schools and other public purposes. These are known as common school lands. If these sections were already settled, the government provided replacement lands known as indemnity lands.

Additional lands were also provided and could be divided as the State wished. The South Dakota Constitution divided these lands between the state's universities, the School for the Visually Handicapped, the School for the Deaf, State Training School, and the Developmental Center in Redfield.

To manage these lands and the money they generated, the constitution established the Office of the Commissioner of School and Public Lands.

According to the constitution, common school and indemnity lands were either to be sold or leased and the proceeds deposited in a permanent trust fund for education. The principal could be increased, but never diminished. Interest from the fund was to be used for funding education.

Each year the office returns approximately $12 million to school districts and endowed institutions. The money is generated from grazing, mineral, oil and gas leases, interest on the Common School Permanent Fund, and interest on land sales contracts.

Historical Maps

The state of South Dakota received historical maps from the federal General Land Office. These maps are available for personal interest or educational purposes. They are not for commercial use and all rights are reserved to the State of South Dakota.

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12 minute podcast on SD School and Public Lands with Rob Monson, Executive Director of School Administrators of South Dakota.