A sign recently installed at the natural entrance of Wind Cave National Park is the result of consultation meetings with tribal representatives that date back to 2006.
The verbage of the original sign didn’t accurately reflect Native American cultural history related to the cave.
Millions of people have visited Wind Cave National Park. For most, says park spokesperson Tom Farrell, the origins of the southern Black Hills tourist site were pretty limited if solely based on the sign that used to stand by the cave’s natural entrance.
“It talked about some cowboys finding this in 1881,” Farrell explains. “And we wanted to reflect the fact that the cowboys didn’t discover it…they rediscovered it, but they didn’t find it for the first time.”
Farrell notes that actual awareness of Wind Cave dates back many centuries.
“We know that Native Americans discovered Wind Cave thousands and thousands of years ago,” says Farrell. “It’s considered sacred by them. For the Lakota people it’s considered their origin site.”
At the request of Lakota tribal members in the area, the staff of Wind Cave National Park removed the old sign in 2006 and began consulting with tribal representatives to create new, more accurate signage. One of those involved in the consultation process was Lakota elder Basil Brave Heart. Asked if he was pleased with the results, Brave Heart’s response was immediate.
“Absolutely,” Brave Heart exclaims. “I feel really good about it. But it was a cooperation of various different tribal people. And if you see it…if you see that sign…it really is…having Native American presence in terms of what really happened to the sacredness of that Wind Cave.”
Basil Brave Heart also recorded a videotape about Wind Cave history from a Native American perspective that he gave to Tom Farrell
Brave Heart’s hope is that the National Park Service will use the tape to train staff in order to present a more accurate history of Wind Cave to visitors who tour the park.