The year began with an emotional start. Janklow died on Jan. 12 at the age of 72. He was the state’s 27th and 30th governor.
The combative Republican-dominated South Dakota government for more than a quarter-century, inspiring both fierce support and criticism.
“We’re all here for one reason, and one reason only, to celebrate the life of the greatest governor the state has ever had,” former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) said at Janklow’s funeral.
South Dakotans also said goodbye to Native American activist, Russell Means. He was on the front lines of the American Indian Movement. Means led the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee, a standoff with the federal government that lasted 71 days.
AIM sought a return to Native American traditions while standing up for treaty rights.
Means disagreed with critics who said AIM’s aggressive tactics were counter-productive.
“The American Indian Movement only involved itself in violence in self-defense! Never did we attack, never!” Means said.
In October, South Dakotans also paid their last respects to former Senator and one-time presidential candidate George McGovern.
At his funeral, colleagues talked about the man who was a voice for the voiceless and an inspiration to the Democratic party.
“There’s a little girl in Malawi who has never heard the name George McGovern who has enough to eat and an education. There’s a young man in Kenya committed to peace and justice. It is up to us to carry on that legacy forward. We love you Senator,” Rep. Jim McGovern, who isn’t related to McGovern but worked as an intern in his office, said.
In a year full of sadness, a story of inspiration came at the end of 2012. KELOLAND viewers watched South Dakota Highway Patrolman Andrew Steen walk out of the hospital on December 14th, after spending eight weeks in recovery. He’d been run over by a suspected drunk driver and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“I’ve gotten thousands of people praying for me, so that saved my life,” Steen said.
A life that got to spend time with his family this holiday season.
“We got our boy back and we can’t have a better gift than that,” Steen’s mother Tricia Steen added.