The Black Hills have long been significant in Native American and modern American history. Today the Black Hills and the Badlands are famous for being beautiful and stunning as well as being the home of the famous American monument - Mount Rushmore.
In American history, they are famous as the site of George Armstrong Custer's campaigns again the Plains Indians that led to his famous "last stand" (and perhaps the worst American defeat at the hands of the native Indians) in neighboring Montana. But to the native Indians, they have long been a very culturally important site. Evidence of human settlement dates back to around 11,500 BC with the Clovis culture.
About The Black Hills
Today the Black Hills encompasses the Black Hills National Forest.
- Name: Translation Of The Lakota Pahá Sápa
- Highest Peak: Black Elk Peak: 7,244 or 2,208 Meters
In 1776 the Lakota conquered the Cheyenne and took the territory that is now the Black Hills (it seems more than just the American declaration of Independence took place that fateful year). After that, the Black Hills became central to Lakota's culture. In 1868 the US government exempted the Black Hills from white settlement forever creating the Great Sioux Reservation. This of course all changed after gold was discovered there a few years later in 1874 and in 1889 the US government took the Black Hills.
Today the area has grown its hospitality and tourism industries as tourists come from far and wild to see its landmarks and gems like Mount Rushmore, Black Elk Park, The Crazy Horse Memorial (that's still a long way from completion), Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, And the Custer State Park
This land has long been considered sacred to the Native Americans living there. They have seen the mining there as desecration of their holy lands. The sorts of mining like gold and coal as well as uranium pollute water and scars the land with huge open pits scaring the landscape.
Two of the most sacred places within the Black Hills are Devils Tower and Bear Butte. Fortunately, these are today located on public land, and mining is forbidden there. But even so, some take issue with Bear Butte being used as a recreational site. It has long been a location of tribal meetings, ceremonies, and even vision quests.
- Prayers At Bear Butte: People From More Than 60 Tribes Come Here To Pray
In order to try to accommodate both holidaymakers wanting to see the stunning beauty of the landscapes and the cultural interests of the local Native Americas two trails have been built. The state built a trail for hikers and another for native religious adherents - and this one leads them to the ceremonial area. Both trails are open to the public, but there is a request that non-native hikers do not use the latter trail and not disturb prayer bundles or ceremonies. More can be read about this here.
Bear Butte is also known as Sacred Mato Paha and has been sacred for thousands of years. When hiking here, it is common to see trees with sacred tobacco offerings, these are wrapped in colorful cloth and are given as a prayer to the Creator.
One Lakota story explains... "long ago a giant bear and a water monster similar to a dinosaur battled for many days and nights. Because of the fierce battle, valleys filled with blood. The giant bear was wounded by the sea monster’s jagged teeth and the bear crawled away to die. The ground erupted, darkness covered the earth, and fire, ashes, water, and mud went into the sky...the bear’s body disappeared, and in place of the bear was a hill in the shape of the bear’s sleeping body which continued to rumble and smolder."
- Two Important Sites: Two Sacred Sites Include Devils Tower And Bear Butte
Devils Tower is held as sacred a cultural site for over twenty different Indian tribes. According to the Indian Law Resource Center.
"For centuries, Indians have performed religious and cultural ceremonies there, including the Sun Dance, sweat lodge rites, vision quests, and prayer offerings. These ceremonies continue today."
Today there are concerns that visitors and rock climbers disturb these traditional ceremonies due to the noise that they make. Noises include the sounds of hammers from the climbers on the butte.
There are other sacred sites in the region as well. Among these are Wind Cave National Park, Harney Peak, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and Angostura Springs.
- Traditional Belief: Wind Cave Is According To Lakota Beliefs Where Their Ancestors Emerged
Today the Black Hills is one of America's most stunning regions and a great place to explore and spend the summer vacation. It is also a sacred region to the tribes who live there, travelers are asked to keep this in mind when enjoying the majestic beauty of this part of America.