The Indian occupancy of the area and earliest use of
catlinite from the quarries has long been discussed, but archeological
studies over the past 30 years have greatly improved knowledge in this
The proto-Mandan people who once frequented the area
are not believed to have used catlinite. The first quarrying here was
probably done by people associated with the Oneota Aspect, about 1600 to
1650 A.D. In earliest historic times these tribes were known as the Iowa
and the Oto.
Quite early in historic times the Sioux (or Dakota)
moved to the west and southwest. They were better armed than the Iowa
and Oto through their trade contacts, but restrained on the north by the
Cree and pressed from the northeast by the Chippewa. By about 1700 A.D.
the Sioux were in control of the Coteau and remained so until the end of
tribal days about a century and a half later. Catlinite received its
most widespread use during Sioux times.