We have spent the last two days in the Black Hills. The Black Hills received their name from the dense covering of evergreens. It is an amazing landscape change from the rolling hills of the grassland to the sharply rising mountains of the Black Hills. We have been staying in the town of Lead, SD. Lead is the site of the worlds’s most productive gold mine, the Homestake Mine. It was a fitting place to start our trip given the tension between the United States Government and the Lakota peoples over ownership of the Back Hills.
We toured the Homestake Gold Mine. The mine is an impressive open up of a half mile, and a surface depth of about 1200 feet. However, it goes underground to a depth of 8000 feet! The mine closed in 2002, due to the falling cost of gold and the expense required for underground mining. The mine was given to the state of South Dakota as a tourism site. As we watched the informational video at the beginning of the tour there was not mention of the Lakota. I found that very interesting, considering the first gold prospectors were breaking the treaty set with the Lakota by entering the Back Hills to search for gold. The tour was focused on the gold and the settlers that founded the town or Lead with no mention of the Lakota for the entire time.
I had read in “The Lakota and the Black Hills” that only very recently have the Lakota people’s been mentioned in tours of Mount Rushmore. Considering they were some of the original inhabitants of the regions, it is about time.
The photo below is Kate Hudson (McDaniel Student), Carolyn Rittenhouse (Cheyenne River Lakota), and Lauren Zafrir (McDaniel Student) at our meeting with Carolyn prior to leaving for South Dakota.