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Cultural Resources

Protect Cultural Resources

South Dakota citizens, through the South Dakota Department of Game, FIsh and Parks (GFP), are stewards of hundreds of culturally significant sites. These include prehistoric villages, American Indian worship sites, old military forts, cemeteries, log cabins, early trading post sites and areas where railroads once ran.

In 1906, Congress passed the first of many laws to protect archaeological sites, both prehistoric and historic, on federal land. Today, similar laws in South Dakota protect these cultural resources.

Archaeological and historic resources are nonrenewable resources that enhance our understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage of South Dakota. These sties possess information that is significant not only to our state, but to our nation as well.

What types of items are considered archaeological resources?

Archaeological resources refer to any material remains of human life or activities. Including, but not limited to:

  • Pieces of pottery
  • Arrowheads
  • Antique glass
  • Old hardware
  • Beads
  • Rock paintings/carvings
  • Bones
  • Railroad items


Call 1.866.NOSWIPE to report uncovered articafts or vandalism.


Artifact Collecting is prohibited

Observe but do not touch.

Collecting artifacts at South Dakota state parks, recreation areas, and other land owned or managed by the S.D. Division of Parks and Recreation is prohibited under state law. If you notice illicit digging at an archaeological site, see someone collecting artifacts or witness an act of vandalism at a state park or recreation area, contact a member of the park staff or call the Division of Parks and Recreation at 605.773.3391 so measures can be taken to protect the site.

Federal Laws

Antiquities Act, 1906

Protects all historic and prehistoric sites on Federal lands and prohibits excavation or destruction of such antiquities unless a specific permit is obtained.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

Makes it illegal to destroy, excavate or remove any archaeological resources from Federal or Indian lands without a permit from the land manager. Excavated items remain the property of the United States or the Indian or Indian tribe, depending on where the items were found.

Archaeological Resources Protection Act, 1979

Protects archaeological resources that are found during a project by the Federal government or an agency assisted by the Federal government. The penalty for stealing or vandalizing can be a felony.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 1990

Assigns ownership and control of Native American cultural items, human remains and associated funerary objects to Native Americans. NAGPRA makes it illegal to sell, purcahse, use for profit, and/or transport for sale the human remains of a Native American or Native American cultural items.

South Dakota Laws

South Dakota has many laws that focus on the protection of cultural resources. Some examples of the laws include the destruction or removal of natural features, unauthorized investigation on an archaeological site, trespassing on private lands to take archaeological resources and forgery.misrepresentation of archaeological items. Additaional laws make it illegal to disturb, buy, sell or barter human skeletal remains or funery objects. The penalties imposed on these violations can range from fines to imprisonment.