HISTORY OF THE BLACK HILLS
As you begin researching South Dakota and the Black Hills, you will begin to notice a rich history that is still held in high regard. Although there are many industries present in western South Dakota, tourism leads as the main source of economic stability here.
In the early 1920s, many Black Hills residents were thinking about a new source of revenue as gold discovery moved to the west coast, and that idea was tourism. State tourism supporters convinced a popular national sculptor (Gutzon Borglum) to come to the Black Hills and create the huge memorial to American heroes that became known as Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Special rail and bus tour packages were tailored to give visitors a great trip to the area, and tourism began to flourish.
Although the region was impacted by the economic depression during the 1930s, the carving of Mount Rushmore continued to be a major draw. As the nation entered World War II, the Black Hills area was a vital part in the defense effort with the creation of the Rapid City Air Base.
Upon the end of the war, the Black Hills returned to the business of business. Mining, agriculture, commerce, and tourism continued to fuel the local economy. Another major memorial was dedicated near Custer in 1948 as the Crazy Horse Memorial project began. By the late 1950s and 1960s the automobile and improving highway system allowed thousands of tourists to visit the region yearly.
Today, millions of visitors travel to the Black Hills from around the world to take in the natural beauty, monumental sights, and a sense of slower pace from the everyday hustle and bustle.
The Black Hills are considered sacred by American Indian tribes. The Lakota Sioux consider the Black Hills (HE SAPA or PAHA SAPA in the Lakota language) the center of their universe, where their culture began, and ultimately returned to in the mid-1700s.
You can see and enjoy the important American Indian cultural influence throughout the state when you travel through the Black Hills, attend a rodeo and powwow, or take in the exhibits at one of the area’s many museums, including the Journey Museum. Take the time to learn and enjoy the deep cultural heritage of the area while you are here.