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Discovering the Native American History of the Black Hills

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The Black Hills of South Dakota are not only known for their natural beauty, but also for their rich Native American history. For centuries, this area has been home to various indigenous tribes, each with their own unique traditions and customs. If you're interested in learning more about the Native American history of the Black Hills, here are some places and experiences you should definitely check out.

1. Crazy Horse Memorial: Crazy Horse Memorial is located in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills. The elevation on the Mountain is 6,532 feet above sea level and ranks 27th highest mountain in South Dakota. It is made of pegmatite granite and was chosen by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski & Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear for the Crazy Horse Memorial. This massive sculpture in progress is dedicated to the legendary Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. The Foundation demonstrates its commitment to this endeavor by continuing the progress on the world’s largest sculptural undertaking by carving a Memorial of Lakota leader Crazy Horse. The memorial also houses the Indian Museum of North America, which showcases the art and history of various Native American tribes.

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2. Black Hills Powwow: The Black Hills Powwow, held annually in Rapid City, South Dakota, brings together Native American dancers, singers, artisans, and visitors from across the world to celebrate and honor the traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people. To witness the pageantry of the Grand Entry, where dancers in full regalia enter the arena in a stunning display of color, sound, and movement is something you don’t want to miss. Then, watch as dancers of all ages and styles compete in dance competitions, showcasing their skill and passion for the art form. You can also browse through all of the different arts and crafts, jewelry and food vendors to experience the rich flavors and spices of Native American cuisine.

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3. Journey Museum and Learning Center: This museum in Rapid City features exhibits on the history of the Black Hills, including the Native American tribes that once called the area home. These Native American art exhibits provide the public with an introduction to Native American culture and artistry, both traditional and contemporary. The collection is composed of materials of high aesthetic quality and includes numerous items of rare historic value acquired from notable Lakota individuals, artists, and artisans. Today’s Lakota artwork incorporates a diversity of Native and trade materials including glass beadwork, porcupine quillwork, hide painting, feather working, wood and pipestone carving and metalworking. These mediums, as well as some of the traditional forms decorated garments, ceremonial regalia, personal adornment, and containers such as bags and parfleches were all developed by Lakotas during the nomadic hunting days of the early 1800s.

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4. Tatanka: Story of the Bison: This attraction in Deadwood tells the story of the bison and its significance to the Lakota people. The interactive exhibit also features a live herd of bison. From their beginnings at Wind Cave through the eradication of the bison and into the present day, the museum tells the story of resilience, rebirth and the perseverance of not just an animal, but also a culture. In the center of Tatanka, stands the third largest bronze sculpture in world. It is composed of a total of 17 pieces: 14 bison being pursued by three Lakota riders on bareback. These figures artfully depict the earliest and most effective form of hunting bison called a bison jump.

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5. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: Located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 100 miles from Rapid City. Surrounded by rolling prairie, Badlands, and the Black Hills, the Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Oglala Lakota Nation. The Pine Ridge Reservation occupies the entirety of Oglala Lakota (formerly Shannon) County, the southern half of Jackson County and Bennett County. The total land area of the reservation is 2.1 million acres. The reservation is among the largest in the United States. Visitors can tour the reservation and visit the Wounded Knee Massacre site.

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6. The Indians: The Indians, established in 1950, has been owned and operated by the same family for nearly 40 years. The business is located at the foot of Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. They’re a member of the Indian Arts & Crafts Association and offer a selection of fine gifts, including Minnetonka Moccasins, mementos and collectibles with an emphasis on authentic Indian arts and crafts. Be sure to visit frequently! We are always adding new items.

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7. Prairie Edge & Sioux Trading Post: Prairie Edge is a unique store in downtown Rapid City that aims to educate people about the heritage and culture of Northern Plains Indians while providing a fair outlet for their art. The store is housed in a restored 19th-century building, and the interior design evokes the spirit of the Old West and Great Plains Indian culture.

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In conclusion, the Black Hills are a treasure trove of Native American history and culture. From museums and monuments to pow wows and scenic drives, there are plenty of opportunities to discover and learn about the indigenous tribes that once inhabited this beautiful area. We hope you'll take the time to explore and appreciate the rich heritage of the Black Hills.

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