The Black Hills, the United States’ oldest set of mountains, is 125 miles (201 km) long and 65 miles (105 km) wide stretching across South Dakota and Wyoming. The Black Hills derived its name from the black image that is produced by the “thick forest of pine and spruce trees” that covers the hills and was given the name by the Native Americans belonging to the Lakota –Sioux tribe. Today, the Sioux have taken great strides in an ongoing conflict with the United States Federal Government to have their traditional hunting and religious lands returned.

The land of the Black Hills has a United States Federal Government presence where it is home to six national parks: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The Blacks Hills also includes Harney Peak, the highest location in the Black Hills at 7,242 feet (2,207 m) located within the 1,247,209 acres (5,047.28 km2) of the Black Hills National Forest. Harney Peak was once a Lakota religious landmark, but now resides as a popular tourist attraction.

The only presence of Native Americans in the Black Hills is represented in the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a carved sculpture in the mountains of the deceased Lakota leader, Crazy Horse. The sculpture is said to symbolize “the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.”

On this date in History-
June 13th 1979- The United States Court of Claims on June 13, 1979, in a 5-2 majority, decided that the 1877 Act that seized the Black Hills from the Sioux was a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Today, the Black Hills land claim case is still an ongoing issue. Native American lawyer Wanda L. Howey-Fox statements in April 2009 explain the modern issues regarding the Black Hills. She states, “There is no selling to be done because the court determined it was an improper taking and all the court can give as far as remedy is money.” In the present day, the government has recognized that the seizure of land in 1877 was illegal but is still unwilling to return the Black Hills.

Additionally, Lawyer Howey-Fox has currently brought a lawsuit demanding the release of $900 million in Sioux trust funds. As of now, the case is still pending.

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To review our 2009 Phelons trip to the Badlands please visit here.