History of the Black Hills
The first Native Americans to live in this South Dakota region was a tribe that some tribes called, Nadouessioux, which means “enemies." Others called them “Sioux." The Sioux had a name for the high mountains and hills covered in black pine: paha sapa, meaning, “hills of black." The Sioux felt such a spirit connection to this place that they believed it was sacred, and for that reason, they didn’t live, hunt or fish there. In 1868, a United States treaty was signed at Fort Laramie where the Black Hills were recognized as part of the Great Sioux Reservation—their own private lands.
The first white men to visit—somewhere around 1743—respected the way the Sioux felt and didn’t go into the Black Hills. Later, others did not feel that way and miners, soldiers and trappers violated the sacred ground. In 1874, the U.S. Army sent troops to investigate the area for a potential fort. General George A. Custer led the expedition and with the aid of miners, sought gold. As soon as they reported gold in the area, by 1875, 10,000 white people rushed in and almost overnight, towns such as Deadwood sprang up.
Battles were fought—with the great warrior, Sitting Bull in the lead—as miners moved into Sioux hunting grounds. The Army was told to engage and a campaign to drive out the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Bighorn River was thrown together. Custer’s detachment (the Seventh Cavalry) was annihilated and this combat is referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand." the battles continued until the Sioux, including the Oglala Sioux, under Crazy Horse's command, were defeated and forced onto reservations. To this day, ownership of the Black Hills is in legal dispute and the Sioux will not take money for it, with the firm belief that the land is still theirs.