The Black Hills has been the home of the Lakota Sioux Indians for centuries. White men have only settled in the area for the last 120 years. Even so, many legends tell of the early white settlers. One of these is the Ghost Dance.
According to legend, by 1890, the Native Peoples of South Dakota were very unhappy. They were no longer free to roam the plains and the buffalo herds were being slaughtered. Since the buffalo was a staple of life for the Lakota, their food source was rapidly declining. The Natives began performing the Ghost Dance. They believed that this magical dance would bring back their dead, the buffalo, and dispose of the whites. The non-Natives living close to the Reservation became frightened. This led to the Wounded Knee Massacre.
In 1890, the army moved west to try and force the Natives from performing the Ghost Dance. There were many small battles. The first one claimed the life of Sitting Bull. At this time the Natives of Sitting Bull’s tribe decided to move south to the Badlands. They had heard that other tribes were performing the Ghost Dance in that area. When the Lakota reached the Badlands, they were taken captive by soldiers and moved to a small village – Wounded Knee.
On December 29, 1890, the Natives were gathered to enable the soldiers to search them for weapons. A shot was fired and the soldiers quickly eliminated several hundred unarmed Natives. It was the last massacre and bloody confrontation between the US Army and Native Americans.
The Petrified Park legend is an interesting story. The events took place near Lemmon, South Dakota, in South Dakota’s northwest. It seems that during the 1830?s, an amateur geologist, Ole Quammen, discovered a collection of petrified prehistoric mudballs, stumps, fossils and logs. A crew of men was dispatched to collect all petrified wood within thirty-five miles of Lemmon. Forty men worked with wagons, scaffolds, mules and pulleys for over two years. They gathered approximately 6.4 tons of petrified wood. The town of Lemmon used this wood to build wishing wells, castles and turrets. They still stand today in downtown Lemmon and are a magnificent sight. Each displays the splendor of color and texture from prehistoric times. If you are ever in South Dakota be sure to take in Lemmon and visit the museum that pays tribute to Ole Quammen as the man who turned a pile of rocks into a monument to another era. This is the world’s only Petrified Wood Park.
The legend of Tipperary is also a good read. Tipperary was a broco. For ten years he took of the West’s best riders and was retired a Champion. He achieved fame on the rodeo circuit.
Tipperary was born in the early 20th Century. There is much speculation to why he set out to rid the world of rodeo riders. His reputation for vicious bucking and lightning speed spread across the West like wildfire. Cowboys respected him but the legend grew to such vast proportions that many cowboys refused to ride him. Rodeos offered hefty purses for the rider who could master Tipperary. Few did. Eventually, Tipperary passed his prime and was put out to pasture near Buffalo, South Dakota. A monument has been erected in honor of this bucking bronco. It may be the only one of its kind in the world. It reads: “Tipperary”¦World’s Greatest Bucking Horse.”
Another legend tells of gold, miners, cowboys and death. In 1874, Custer’s expedition discovered gold in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Reports of the find spread across the United States at lightning speed. Prospectors, gamblers, adventurers and those seeking their fortunes poured into the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota Nation. This remote wilderness was forever changed within two years.
Word of gold in the Black Hills brought on the 1876 gold rush. Miners poured into Deadwood Gulch and surrounding areas in droves. Most of these people were never able to strike gold and ended up running businesses to supply the miners with food, mining equipment and entertainment.
Wild Bill Hickcock was shot and killed while playing poker in Deadwood’s Saloon # 10. Calamity Jane claimed that she and Wild Bill were lovers. She is buried next to him in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood.
These legends are only a few of the legends that make up the history of the Black Hills. Numerous other tales of white settlers can be found at your local library. These are interesting and intriguing. They teach us about the past and give us insight into what both the Native people and the white settlers experienced.
I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the legends of the Black Hills. They certainly have a unique and interesting history.