- Terry Peak Ski Area
- 21120 Stewart Slope Road - Lead
- South Dakota 57754 - United States
The Black Hills of South Dakota has to a large degree retained its traditional flavor and character. Its rich history is in many ways unique.
The region was the homeland of Sioux Indians who traversed the Great Plains before the advent of Europeans. French explorers arrived in 1742-3, and Spain acquired sovereignty over the region in 1762. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase initiated United States ownership. Until 1856, when Fort Randall was constructed, fur trappers and traders were the sole Caucasians. Vermillion and Yankton soon became permanent establishments. Dakota Territory was created in 1861, with people congregated in the southeast.
The uncovering of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 accelerated and largely motivated the coming of white men. An influx of prospectors caused disturbances in the region while creating opportunities and radically transforming the region. While the Hills had been closed to white entry under treaty terms with the Sioux, the intervention of the United States military failed to discourage prospectors from taking their chances. The Black Hills were sacred Sioux ground. Although conditions could be extreme, for some people there were great rewards. After the fading of surface deposits, corporations followed individuals into the industry. While gold and silver attracted the most attention, other resources proved more consequential over the long term.
The gold rush gave birth to Deadwood. The town has retained some of its former flavor, including gambling and drinking houses, even though covert prostitution has disappeared. The mythological dimensions of the town and personages such as "Wild Bill" Hickok still linger. The city was flamboyant, and, initially, relatively devoid of order, informal yet dangerous. Rapid City became a gateway for Deadwood.
The first transcontinental railroad was established in 1869, through the combined efforts of government and corporations, although subsidiary lines proved to be more important for settlers. They spurred settlement, which was encouraged by railroad companies themselves.
This request met with northern and Congressional opposition, although during 1883-5 the south held constitutional conventions. Statehood was achieved in 1889 for the fortieth state of South Dakota. Populist and Progressive political views- products of widespread malaise among Western farmers- predominated until the 1920s, when more conservative sentiments began to take root. In 1890 the historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the ending of the frontier, a psychological, if not factual, milestone. The frontier concept continues to influence America's perception of itself.
The cowboy of the "long-drive," himself domesticated by the bad winter of 1886-7, captured the nation's imagination, as did the notion of the Strenuous Life popularized by Teddy Roosevelt, an owner of a cattle ranch in the Bad Lands. Ranching was risky and competitive. Hearty homesteaders challenged cattlemens' dominance, eventually, although the cession Indian lands mitigated the rivalry. In many ways, the area was a model market society. Farmers' economic situation was always uncertain, and there was a good deal of farmer resentment.
All-around white policy toward Indians emphasized assimilation and paternalism, when there was not outright strife; between 1869 and 1876, there were over 200 violent conflicts in the west. The defeat of Indians was piecemeal, though Sioux resistance was especially desperate. Droughts plagued the populace, although the rapid rise of population in the west river region continued throughout the 1920s. The region suffered during the 1930s Depression, experiencing water shortages, grasshoppers, and dust storms from eroded soils.
Renowned for its natural beauty, the Black Hills has always been the most densely populated area of the western half of South Dakota. Many descendants of early northern and central European settlers, particularly Scandinavians, still reside here. Their influence in establishing churches and their legacy within local social structures has generally proved resilient. Catholicism was the predominant religion of early years, with the Lutheran faith strongly represented.
The economic tide, however, has significantly shifted. Mining, once the bread and butter backbone, has dwindled to roughly 2% of the current economy. In some ways, perhaps, the West was "plundered" and the people "held themselves cheap." The region was unusually dependent on outside areas, especially the East, upon weather, and so forth. Farming country was generally horse-centered economically.
Early culture often centered around the schoolhouse. Much current culture centers upon its early years, and retains a religious or patriotic cast. For example, the Black Hills Passion Play, a narrative of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, has become an institution. Recent developments in theater and music- there are at least seven regional orchestras- bode well for the cultural and spiritual life of the Hills. Wonders such as Gutzon Borglum's titanic Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a mountain carving of four American Presidents, continue to draw international recognition.