South Dakota motto "Under God the people rule" was adopted as part of the state seal. It was suggested by the Reverend Joseph Ward, founder of Yankton College, at the 1885 Constitutional Convention. It was adopted as the South Dakota motto, as an element of the state seal in the 1885 constitution and in the 1889 constitution.
There are four states with mottos that mention "God." Most people would probably regard them as being religious mottos:
There are three other states with mottos that make reference to "God."
There are three states with mottos that focus on the people:
The wording in the South Dakota Constitution, pertaining to the motto, reads:
Properly divided between the upper and lower edges of the circle shall appear the legend, "Under God the People Rule" which shall be the motto of the state of South Dakota
The law designating the official South Dakota state motto is found in the South Dakota Constitution, Article 21, Section 1.
This article describes the South Dakota seal and coat of arms. The motto is specified within this description.
ARTICLE XXI - MISCELLANEOUS.
SECTION 1 - SEAL AND COAT OF ARMS.
§ 1. Seal and coat of arms. The design of the great seal of South Dakota shall be as follows: A circle within which shall appear in the left foreground a smelting furnace and other features of mining work. In the left background a range of hills. In the right foreground a farmer at his plow. In the right background a herd of cattle and a field of corn. Between the two parts thus described shall appear a river bearing a steamboat. Properly divided between the upper and lower edges of the circle shall appear the legend, "Under God the People Rule" which shall be the motto of the state of South Dakota. Exterior to this circle and within a circumscribed circle shall appear, in the upper part, the words, "State of South Dakota," in the lower part the words, "Great Seal," and the date in Arabic numerals of the year in which the state shall be admitted to the union.
The law designating the official South Dakota state motto is found in the South Dakota Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 6, Section 1-6-2.
This statute describes the South Dakota seal and coat of arms. The motto is specified within this description.
TITLE 1 - STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT.
CHAPTER 1-6 - STATE EMBLEMS.
1-6-2. Design of seal and coat of arms. The design of the colored seal of the State of South Dakota shall be as follows: An inner circle, whose diameter shall be five-sevenths of the diameter of the outer circle of any seal produced in conformity herewith; within which inner circle shall appear; in the left foreground on the left bank of a river, a rust-colored smelting furnace from which grey smoke spirals upward and adjacent to which on the left are a rust-colored hoist house and mill, and to the left a grey dump; these three structures being set in a yellow field and above and back of a light green grove on the left bank of the river. In the left background is a series of three ranges of hills, the nearer range being a darker green than the said grove, the intermediate range of a blue-green and the higher range of a blue-black coloration.
In the right foreground is a farmer with black hat, red shirt, navy-blue trousers and black boots, holding a black and silver breaking plow, drawn by a matched team of brown horses with a black harness. In the right background and above the horses in a pasture of grey-green, a herd of rust-colored cattle graze in front of a field of yellow-brown corn, part in shock and part in cut rows to the rear and above which are blue and purple hills forming a low background and receding into the distance. Between the right and left foregrounds and backgrounds is a light-blue river merging in the distance into a sky-blue and cloudless sky. Moving upstream on the river is a white steamboat with a single black funnel from which grey smoke spirals upward. Green shrubbery appears on the near bank of the river, in the left foreground and on the right bank of the river near the pasture is a yellow field. The farmer is turning black-brown furrows which reach across the circle and in his foreground is a field of brown-green-yellow.
Near the upper edge of the inner circle at the top on a golden quarter circle which is one-fifth in width the distance between the innermost and the outermost circles that compose the seal, shall appear in black, the state motto: "Under God the People Rule." This innermost circle is circumscribed by a golden band one-fourth as wide as the above-described quarter circle, which inner border, shall be circumscribed by a deep blue circle four and one-half times as wide as the above quarter circle, on which in golden letters one-third its width, in height, shall appear at the top the words, "State of South Dakota." In the lower half of the deep blue circle shall appear in words of equal height "Great" and "Seal" between which shall be the numerals "1889." Between the above-stated names and on either side shall appear a golden star one-half in size the width of the deep blue circle. Circumscribing this deep blue circle shall be a band of gold of the same width as of the inner golden band.
Outside of this outer golden band shall be a serrated or saw-toothed edge of small triangles whose base shall be of the same width as the above quarter circle.
Source: SL 1961, ch 291, § 1.