Lakota Indians have lived and hunted in the Black Hills for eons. Their word for the Black Hills is Pahasapa. The Hills were so names because from a distance the pine covered slopes appeared black in contrast to the golden windswept prairie grass that surrounds this dome shaped mountain range.
Lakota stories speak of a hole in the Black Hills that blows air. This is a sacred place for their people. The tipi rings near the present day elevator building at Wind Cave National Park indicate that Indians camped in the area and knew about the cave's small natural entrance. Sitting Bull's nephew is quoted as saying that "Wind Cave in the Black Hills was the cave from which Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, sent the buffalo out into their hunting grounds."
It is this hole that Tom and Jesse Bingham claimed to have discovered in 1881. The legend states that these two brothers were riding through a draw when, Jesse reported, the sound of the wind coming from the entrance caught his attention. They dismounted and approached the small opening where the wind blew out quite strongly. According to legend he and Tom looked into the hole and the wind coming from it was strong enough to blow Tom's hat off of his head. Later they returned with friends to show them the hat trick. By then, the wind had changed direction and when a hat was placed over the opening, it was sucked inside.
Aside from reports that the Binghams returned to show others this wind phenomenon, the first reported entry into the cave was by Charlie Crary shortly after it was discovered in 1881. Later in the fall of 1881, Crary told pioneer Frank Hebert about a hole in the ground where the wind "came out screeching".
Later, Hebert, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Girelle, and the two Cole girls spent a day exploring the cave. Other explorations were reported in the local newspapers and by 1887 the cave was said to be 3 miles long and "no bottom found."