Contact Info
Missouri River Institute
The University of
South Dakota
414 E. Clark Street
Science Center
Vermillion, SD 57069

Financial support for website development provided by the
Living River Group
of the
Sierra Club




Site Description:

White Swan was an Indian community situated on the South Dakota side of the Missouri River, less than a mile upstream from the Fort Randall Military Post and the now present Fort Randall Dam. The traditional, self-sustaining community was named after White Swan, or Magaska, a prominent Yankton Sioux Chief. White Swan residents took advantage of the Missouri River bottomland's natural benefits. Abundant trees provided lumber for building and wood for fuel, as well as shade and shelter for both tribal members and their livestock to protect them from South Dakota's hot summers and intensely cold winters. Forested areas provided a source of food- berries, roots, beans, herbs and plums and plenty of wild game for hunting. Wild plants found near the river were also used for medicinal purposes and in cultural ceremonies. The community's close proximity to the Missouri river allowed easy access to water so that it could easily be distributed it throughout the community. The tribe had become accustomed to annual spring flooding that was so prevalent in the river's bottomlands. The community would temporarily move to upland areas, often living in tents until the water subsided. Even by the 1940s, only three or four families had cars and there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. Although the community was primitive, resembling something closer to the 1800s, the tribe was accustomed to this way of life. The Corps of Engineers acquired the land in 1948 and the community was completely inundated by the early 1950s. Tribal members dispersed to wherever housing or land was available in surrounding towns or on other reservations, and the community of White Swan was never rebuilt.