Black Hills, South Dakota- History & Background

By: investorpoet
March 11th, 2006

Human settlements in the Dakota region date back to 8,000 B.C. By A.D. 900, a group of people called the Arikara inhabited the region. They had established large settlements, building farms and fortifications. The tribes of the Great Sioux Nation displaced the Arikara by the mid 1700s. Europeans began claiming the region soon thereafter, from France to Spain to France again. The U.S. “acquired” the region with the Louisiana Purchase. By 1874, gold had been discovered and tensions were high between the Sioux and the U.S. military. Custer had led a gold expedition, breaking a recent treaty that guaranteed all lands west of the Missouri River. This led to his famed “last stand.”

Some of the places we visited in the Black Hills were considered sacred by the Sioux. The Hills also had spiritual and religious meaning for other tribes of the Great Plains. The land is beautiful and could have spiritual meaning for those not of the native traditions as well.

View of the Landscape in the Black Hills, South Dakota

As a footnote to the Sioux displacement story:
Just prior to our visit to the Black Hills, President Clinton had visited the town of Pine Ridge, a mostly Sioux community, as part of his tour of the most poverty-stricken areas of the country. The Sioux economy, prior to European displacement, relied heavily on the big game of the plains (Bison, etc.). The Bison are mostly gone now. I wonder at the void that must exist when ties with the land are severed. I wonder at what our culture has missed, being so far removed for so long.

(Originally posted in 1999 by Dan)

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