This vintage postcard is a 1949 “travel card” and was the cover on a series of postcards showing The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota with Mt. Rushmore.
“Thrust upward out of the vast prairie stand the Black Hills, a distinct group of mountains. North, South, East, and West lay the prairies receiving water from crystal clear mountain streams that run from their sources in the Black Hills.”
The Black Hills cover an area of about a hundred miles north and south, fifty miles wide, bordered on the north by a great government irrigation project. To the south are the mineral springs with their health restoring waters; to the east stretch the prairies of South Dakota; and to the west are the plains of Wyoming.
Highest among all the mountains east of the Rocky Mountains, reaching a maximum of 7,242 feet, the Black Hills still retain the name given them by the Native American tribe, the Sioux, as translated from the musical Paba Sapa of the Dakotas.
The Sioux are a confederation of seven tribes divided into three major groups: Wahpekute, Mdewakantonwan, Wahpetonwan, Sisitonwan (who together formed the Santee or Eastern tribes, known as the Dakota), the Ihanktonwan, or Yankton, and the Ihanktonwana, or Yanktonai (who form the Middle group, known as the Nakota), and the Titonwan, or Teton (who form the Western tribes, known as the Lakota). The Tetons, include the Hunkpapa, Sihasapa (or Blackfoot), and Oglala.
Originally, the Black Hills were part of Sioux lands which the People of the Nation always wanted to hold, the area being considered a sacred and a holy place. If you have ever visited the Black Hills, you will understand the significance of this as you can feel the spirituality in the atmosphere of fresh mountain air, tall Blue Spruce and Norway Pines, with trails winding past pristine mountains springs. In these Black Hills, you – anyone – can feel Wakan Takan nici un – the Great Spirit within (from the beautiful Lakota language).
In 1874, General George A. Custer and his Seventh U.S. Cavalry, accompanied by geologists and newspaper men, were sent to investigate reports that a few roving miners had found gold in the hills. Horatio N. Rose, a miner with the troupes discovered gold on French Creek during this expedition, leading to thousands and now possibly millions of prospectors, merchants, adventurers, and tourists beeing lured to the Black Hills ever since. The government took over the land in an attempt to maintain order and satisfy the investors in the mining prospects at that time, attempting to pay the Sioux tribe, who never accepted the payment.
The history of the Black Hills is that this land, these mountains, were so honored and revered by the Sioux, that they refused payment for them when the U.S. government claimed the lands due to the discovery of gold in 1874. The Sioux nation sued the U.S. government for many years and finally won, having gone all the way to the Supreme Court. Since then, the money has been kept for the Sioux and grown and grown in a bank account, to where it would relieve much of the poverty within their tribe – but they still refuse to accept it and want the Black Hills back. It is heroic, poetic and tragic.
The book, Black Hills/White Justice: The Sioux Nation versus the United States, 1775 to the Present tells the history of the battles both literal and legal between the Sioux nation and the United States government over the Black Hills land from the 1800’s up until the book was published in the 1990’s by the University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books.
This vintage postcard of the Black Hills is a great travel card reminding one to go visit the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota and definitely see Mt. Rushmore.