The Home of the Bison - Current and Historic Cultural Affiliations to Wind Cave National Park

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The Lakotas (pp.24, 46-49, 72-81, 93-95, 107-109; 154-160, 172-184, 247-248, 251-252)[1] and Cheyennes (pp. 23-24, 39-42, 67-72, 93, 108, 155, 157,252) have had the most well-documented and uninterrupted historical relationship to the Black Hills over the past two centuries. Both of these tribal nations have also had important legal relationships to the area as established under the treaty law of the United States. Here, they are joined by a third tribal nation the Arapaho who were also connected to the Hills under U.S. treaty law (pp. 90-91; 100-102). The Arapahos (pp. 23-24, 36-38, 67-72, 93, 108, 252) arrived in the Hills sometime in the early half of the eighteenth century and maintained a continuing presence in and around the Hills until the United States illegally seized them in 1877 (pp. 126-129, 252-253; 254-265). Unlike the Lakotas and Cheyennes, there is nothing in the published literature that describes their continuing cultural relationship to WCNP,although a number of sources mention their ties to other sites in and around the Black Hills. The cultural resource staffs of the Arapaho tribes (p. 631) claim a cultural interest in the area, however, as do the staffs of all present-day Cheyenne (p. 630) and Lakota (p. 629) tribes. The federally-recognized tribes with the most important historical and cultural relations to the lands that make up WCNP include: The Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, The Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, The Northern Cheyenne and the Fort Peck Assiniboin/Sioux tribes of Montana, the Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and Standing Rock Sioux tribes of South Dakota.

There are many other tribes who have important cultural, historical, and/or legal relationships to the Black Hills. First and foremost among these are the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska (p. 632). Both of these tribes were parties to treaties and agreements with the United States governing the Black Hills. Although neither of these tribes had any kind of long-term residential connection to the area of the Black Hills, they need to be included among the federally recognized tribes with whom WCNP consults. Like other Dakota-speaking tribes, who were not parties to treaties dealing with the Black Hills, the Crow Creek and Santee Dakota have a long history of intermarriage with Lakota tribes who do have important historical ties to the Hills (p. 95). They also share in the cultural patrimony of the entire Sioux nation, and many of their present-day members adhere to beliefs and practices where the Black Hills occupy a significant place (p. 631). Dakota tribes who were not parties to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 either expressed no interest in being involved in consultations, or else, they deferred to the Lakota people for responsibility on matters pertaining to Wind Cave National Park (p. 631).

The remaining tribal nations have no relationship to WCNP under U. S. treaty law, although many of them have important historical connections to the area and some may have cultural ones as well. These tribes include the Arikaras, Comanches, Crows, Hidatsas, Kiowas, Mandans, Plains Apaches, and Poncas. Three of these populations the Mandans, Hidatsas, and Crows (pp. 21-22, 38-39, 45-46, 65-66) occupied and used areas on the northern side of the Hills in early historic times, but there is little evidence of any large or extended presence in the area of WCNP other than occasional trading and military forays. The Crows expressed no interest in further consultation with WCNP (p. 635). The Poncas (pp. 22, 42-43, 66, 95) and Comanches (pp. 23, 31-33, 64-65) are reported to have occupied areas in and around the southern Black Hills in the eighteenth century, and the Poncas even retained a name for Wind Cave in their language (pp. 504-505). The cultural resource officer of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma deferred to the Lakotas for advisory responsibilities on WCNP (p. 635). The Northern Ponca Tribe of Nebraska expressed no interest in further consultation, while the Southern Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma indicated an historical interest in the area (p. 634). Of the tribal nations with known historical affiliations to the Hills, the Apaches (pp. 22-23, 33-35, 64-66) and the Arikaras (pp. 22, 43-45, 66, 95) have the earliest documented ties to the WCNP area, extending back at least to 1300 A.D. Both of these tribes traveled and camped at locations in and around the southeastern Black Hills until the end of the eighteenth century, after which time they are no longer reported in the area. Both of them also have important cultural connections to the Black Hills and retain stories of sacred significance about the area (pp. 503, 515-516, 528). Most of the sites where these stories unfold, however, refer to locations farther north. There is nothing specific that can be linked to Wind Cave and its surroundings. On historic grounds, the Plains Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and the Fort Berthold Tribe of North Dakota (which includes the Arikaras, Mandans, and Hidatsas) expressed an interest in being consulted on matters pertaining to the park (p. 633). These tribes need to be included in any decisions that come under the guidelines of NAGPRA (p. 272) and that deal with funerary remains in the area between 1300 and 1800. The final tribal nation, the Kiowas (pp. 23, 35-36, 64-67) stayed along the South Fork of the Cheyenne River for approximately forty years in the mid-eighteenth century. Like the Apaches and the Arikaras, they hold many important stories of religious significance that refer to the Black Hills, but again, these cover sites on the northern side of the Hills (pp. 496, 497, 499, 505, 515). Kiowa cultural resource staff asked to remain on an advisory list until further consultations could be conducted with their tribal elders (p. 633).

Over the past three centuries, American Indian people of many different origins have had varying degrees of affiliation, historical as well as cultural, with areas of the Black Hills in and around WCNP, but only some of them, notably the Lakotas, Cheyennes, and possibly the Arapahos, have retained an on-going association with the area that conforms to the definition of a traditional cultural property. Before summarizing the cultural properties of importance to these tribal nations, a few words need to be said about European American historical and cultural attachments to the area of WCNP. For half a century between the 1880s and 1930s, a small number of European Americans homesteaded some of the land that would eventually become park property (pp. 121-125, 137-154, 234-236). Their history is part of the cultural heritage of many residents who live in communities bordering the park. Clearly, the lifestyles of European American ranch families and their adaptations to park lands represent an important chapter in any historical narrative that deals with the park (p. 624). The relationship of early settlers and other European Americans to park lands does not constitute, however, a traditional cultural property in the strict sense of its meaning. Certainly the park draws the interest of European Americans, locals as well as tourists, but it does so largely as a geological curiosity and an important zoological attraction (pp. 153-154, 166-169, 240-241). Since the park began 100 years ago, it has been influenced primarily by the modern cultures of tourism and natural history study, neither of which stand at the foundation of any contemporary European American community's identity or cultural belief and practice. They certainly are not necessary for the cultural survivance of any European American group (pp. 170-172, 441-442, 606-611).

This stands in marked contrast to the Lakotas and Cheyennes (and probably the Arapahos), where the park holds properties that stand at the foundation of some of their contemporary cultural beliefs and practices, and by extension, at the heart of their identities as Lakota and Cheyenne people. These tribal nations need to be consulted pursuant to a variety of different traditional cultural properties. In the remaining part of this overview, some of the cultural foundations behind the Cheyennes and the Lakotas' continuing attachment to WCNP are reviewed here. In addition, culturally significant landscapes, sites, and resources (animals, plants, minerals, and soils) on park properties are identified with consideration given to their protection and also to the conditions of accessing them for religious observances and other traditional cultural practices. Finally, attention is given to establishing consultative relations with these tribes and incorporating their perspectives into the park's interpretive programs.

[1] These and all future numbers refer to pages in the body of the text where further information and details are provided. In Part One of this report, there is a summary of historical material for different eras at the end of each chapter. Also, in Chapter Fifteen (pp. 587-616), there is a comprehensive review of the history of the park region from the early eighteenth century to the present.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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