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History & Heritage Book Club

We've got a great lineup of programs coming to the Heritage Center. We hope to see you at the meetings!

Verne Sankey

There’s a great line-up of authors and books in upcoming months for the History and Heritage Book Club. All these programs will begin at 7 p.m. at the Cultural Heritage Center.

On Tuesday, Aug. 13, Tim Bjorkman will discuss his book “Verne Sankey: America’s First Public Enemy.” In January 1934, as authorities delivered John Dillinger to an Indiana jail, the United States Justice Department announced that, for the first time, America’s Public Enemy No. 1 had been captured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Justice Department was not referring to Dillinger, but to a farmer in South Dakota, Verne Sankey. Sankey was the first – and actually the only – Public Enemy No. 1 ever identified by the United States Department of Justice. Bjorkman ’s book of this overlooked criminal tells how the South Dakota family man became a bootlegger, a bank robber, and eventually, a kidnapper. 

Bjorkman graduated from the University of South Dakota School of Law and practiced law in Bridgewater for 24 years. Now retired, he served for a decade as a judge of South Dakota’s First Judicial Circuit, comprised of 14 southeastern South Dakota counties.

In September, Pierre author Bill Markley will trace the lives and friendship of two near-mythic Western figures. His new book is “Wyatt Earp & Bat Masterson: Lawmen of the Legendary West.” The program take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10.











Books published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press will be in the spotlight in October and November.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Richmond Clow will talk about his book, “Spotted Tail: Warrior and Statesman.” Clow uses firsthand accounts from tribal and nontribal sources, government records and published works to tell the story of this leader of the Sicangu Lakota. Spotted Tail was a courageous and skillful warrior when young, but came to realize that in order for his people to survive, diplomacy had to take precedence over armed conflict whenever possible.

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve will share a story based on an event from her childhood on Thursday, Oct. 17. Her picture book, “The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood,” is a story about selflessness.







R. Eli Paul will speak to the book club on Tuesday, Nov. 12. He is the editor of “The Frontier Army: Episodes from Dakota and the West.” The seven essays from prominent frontier Army and American Indian historians focus on previously ignored groups such as foot soldiers and minorities.

The programs with Clow, Sneve and Paul are co-hosted by the South Dakota Historical Society Press.

The books are available, or will be available soon, at the Heritage Stores at the Cultural Heritage Center and the Capitol.

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.