Black Hills National Forest History

After a series of devastating wildfires in 1893, U.S.

President Grover Cleveland created the Black Hills Forest Reserve on February 22, 1897. Upon the creation of the Forest Service in 1905, the reserve was transferred to the new agency under the United States Department of Agriculture and redesignated as a National Forest two years later. Lakota words Paha Sapa meaning “hills that are black” may be one of the factors in the regions naming. Early settlers and explorers called the Laramie Range the Black Hills prior to Lt. G. K. Warren’s expedition in 1857. Prior to explorations by the La Verendrye brothers in 1742, many tribes frequented the Black Hills including Ponca, Kiowa Apache,Arapaho, Kiowa and Cheyenne for at least the past 10,000 years. The small pox epidemics of 1771 to 1781 broke the wall of the Arikara who prior to that time held the Sioux east of the Missouri. American Horse’s winter count of 1775-76 is interpreted as depicting the Sioux discovery of the Black Hills (Raymond J. DeMallie, Jr – 2006). The mountains and other key features in and around the Black Hills and now within the Forest were considered sacred to indigenous peoples and many came here on vision quests, for hunting and for trade.