Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

With President Theodore Roosevelt’s signature, Wind Cave became the nation’s eighth national park. It was also the first national park established to protected a cave.

Wind Cave is sacred to many indigenous tribes in the region, including the Lakota people who deem Wind Cave as their place of creation. The Lakota people believe they are descendants of the Buffalo Nation who emerged from the cave. The first individual to emerge from the cave learned the traditional Lakota way of life and returned into the cave to tell his nation about  the surface of the earth. Once everyone emerged, they found they were unable to return to the cave and so they began life anew and established the Seven Council Fires.

While several mining claims occurred at Wind Cave, one of the most noteworthy was made by the South Dakota Mining Company. In 1890, J.D. MacDonald set out to explore the cave in hopes of mining it, but his efforts were unsuccessful. However, MacDonald was not without vision for the cave. He recognized the ability to provide tours of the cave and selling pieces of formations from it.

After filing a homesteading claim for the land, the MacDonald family devoted his time to creating a larger entrance to the cave while his son Alvin, explored the cave, mapping his explorations in a diary. By January of 1891, Alvin MacDonald had abandoned his efforts to find the end of Wind Cave.

In 1893, the MacDonalds joined forces with John Stabler and formed the Wonderful Wind Cave Company. Following the untimely death of Alvin MacDonald, however, the relationship between the MacDonalds and Stablers soured. When their concerns reached the Department of Interior, the agency ruled that since no actual mining had occurred in land held by a mining claim, neither party had a claim to the land. Taking the land out of homesteading status allowed for it to be placed into the protection of the federal government ten years later.

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Wildlife officials from Wind Cave National Park are reporting progress in efforts to cull the elk population in the park, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. To date, an estimated 175 elk have been killed. Approximately 525-550 elk were in the park prior to the cull, and officials hope to reduce the number to 230-250 total elk.

This year is the first in which wildlife outside of the park have been prevented from entering the park during the cull. High fences were installed as a deterrent. Officials hope that the final count will be more accurate as a result.

Wildlife scientists hope to reduce the occurrence of Chronic Wasting Disease through culling efforts. Experts will follow the elk herd in coming years to determine if the reduction in population had a positive effect on the rate of the disease.

To read more news about Wind Cave National Park, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive

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This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado released nine black-footed ferrets into Wind Cave National Park, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. The release of the ferrets is part of the park’s effort to reintroduce the endangered animal into the southern portion of the park.

According to park surveys from September and October, there are approximately 25-30 ferrets already in the park, although the projection may be low as the mammals are nocturnal, making them difficult to accurately count. The nine ferrets released this week were preconditioned to be able to hunt and avoid predators.

To read more about wildlife in the Black Hills region, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.

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The National Park Service and the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department are aiming to reduce the occurrence of chronic wasting disease in the elk population at Wind Cave National Park.  The Rapid City Journal reports that around 50 volunteer shooters are being recruited to work in tandem with park officials to shoot the elk in mid-November.

All elk that are shot will be tested for chronic wasting disease.  The meat from elk without the disease will be donated to Feeding South Dakota. Volunteer applications will be accepted through September 28. Participant requirements and additional information on the application process can be found on the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks website.

To learn more about Wind Cave National Park, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive

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The Rapid City Journal reports 2016 could be even better for tourism in the Black Hills than 2015.  In 2015 the area celebrated the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and 50th Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup, with a combined attendance of nearly 800,000.  In 2016 the Mount Rushmore National Memorial celebrates 75 years since its completion and the National Park Services centennial celebration is under way.  The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may also see high attendance again this year from those that missed the landmark year in 2015 to avoid the crowds.

For more information about area tourism, visit our news archives or the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce website.  

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As part of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary, Wind Cave National Park held a video contest for students, reports South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Two middle school students from Hot Springs tied as winners of the contest. They received video cameras, while all entrants received T-shirts. 

More events are planned by all national parks as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. 

The winning videos, seen below, also are on the Wind Cave Facebook page

By Haley Hampton: 


By Josie Lively: 



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Monday, 04 April 2016 00:00

1,300 Acres of Forest Land Lost in Fire

The Rapid City Journal reports that 1,300 acres of forest burned in the Cold Fire this weekend.  It is named the Cold Fire because the fire originated near the the Cold Springs Schoolhouse, although the source of the fire is still undetermined.  The fire burnt private land in addition to parts of Black Hills National Forest, Wind Cave National Park, and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. 

For more information about the US Forest Service, visit our news archives or their website.  

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The caves of the Black Hills are among the longest in the world, and new research shows they might contain some of the purest water on earth, reports South Dakota Public Radio.

The lakes in Wind Cave and the newly discovered bodies of water in Jewel Cave are a treasure trove for microbiologists who study the rare bacteria that have evolved in the untouched and dark underground water of the Madison Aquifer. 

Two researchers said the cave microbes could help fight bacteria that have become resistant to anti-biotics and even help scientists understand life on other planets. 

Listen to a 16-minute radio interview online. Read more about science on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


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During the final decades of the 1800s, North America's buffalo population dwindled to 500. A few private ranchers gathered some of the remaining animals to keep small herds alive. 
Many of these animals ended up in the ownership of the New York Zoological Society, housed at the Bronx Zoo. 
On Dec. 8, 1905, a group of 16 people, including  Theodore Roosevelt, gathered at the zoo and formed the American Bison Society. Their goal was to re-establish buffalo herds on the Great Plains, including South Dakota.
Wind Cave National Park was established in 1910. The following year, the release of a study and the support of Seth Bullock, then the park's supervisor, ignited efforts to send a small herd to the southern Black Hills. 
On Nov. 24, 1913, 14 animals (seven males and seven females) were crated and loaded onto a train in New York. On Nov. 28, that train arrived 2,000 miles away in Hot Springs. Local volunteers donated the use of wagons to haul the crates the final leg of the journey. 
In the evening darkness, the animals were not eager to leave their crates. 
"...we had a good deal of trouble in getting some of the bison out of their crates," reads an American Bison Society report. "In several cases the operation was more like removing the crate from the animal than the animal from the crate." 
The animals soon adapted to their new home. By the end of 1913, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture declared that, "The future of the species now seems assured." 
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Researchers exploring Persistence Cave, a newly discovered cavern in Wind Cave National Park, have already found the fossilized remains of more than 25 different species, reports South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

The project is lead by Dr. Jim Mead, a professor at East Tennessee State University and Interim Chief Scientist at the Hot Springs Mammoth Site. Mead is focusing on the study of Persistence Cave’s fossils this summer, noting that the discovery of Pika fossils shows what the climate in the Black Hills was like in the past. The Pika is a small mammal that resides in very cold climates, and most likely lived in the Black Hills during the last Ice Age.

This information will be used to adjust Park Service’s land management actions and react to future climate change in Wind Cave National Park.

Excavation is likely to continue for several more weeks, with scientific research continuing into the next few years. Eager spelunkers are standing by for excavation to be finished so that they can finally explore what could be a vast labyrinth of caves below the surface.

For more information, visit the Wind Cave National Park website or the Black Hills Knowledge Network archive.

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Several Rapid City and Native American leaders took part in a week's worth of bus tours to regional Lakota historic and cultural sites in the region, reports KOTA Territory News.

Oceti Sakowin (pronounced Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) Cultural Ambassadors hope to use this bus tour, funded by a grant from the Bush Foundation, to improve relationships between Native and non-Native communities through education. Oceti Sakowin, which means Seven Council Fires, is the Lakota language name for the Sioux tribe.

On the first day of the tour, Monday, the group visited Wind Cave National Park and was asked to evaluate the representation of Native Americans in the visitor center. Their commentary has already had some degree of affect, as one park official, Rod Horrocks, hopes to use this information to improve the Lakota story as it is presented at the important historical site.

Black Hills Knowledge Network Project Director Eric Abrahamson spent the week on the bus with the ambassadors.

Listen to a report online by South Dakota Public Radio.

For more information, please visit the Oceti Sakowin website or the Black Hills Knowledge Network news archive.


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Wednesday, 10 June 2015 00:00

New Cave Found At Wind Cave National Park

Marc Ohms, a caver who's been working at Wind Cave National Park for 17 years, recently discovered a new cave, Rapid City Journal reports. Due to the location of the hole leading to the cave, as well as a nest of rattlesnakes and thick patches of poison ivy surrounding it, the cave has remained undiscovered until now.

The cave has so far been found to have fossils from 22 different species, the oldest dating back 11,000 years. Ohms began calling the new cave Persistence Cave, which is now the official name of the 15 square foot cavern.

During this week, cave employees as well as members of several museums and schools will be coming to remove materials and prepare them for curation. Media will be able to view the camp Wednesday, June 10.

For more news on Wind Cave National Park, visit our online archives.

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Discovered in 2004 by a park worker, Persistence Cave is located in Wind Cave National Park, and has been previously kept secret to preserve its contents, reports the Black Hills Pioneer.

A team of scientists began excavating the nearly untouched cave Monday, studying sediment and animal bones brought out of the cave. Bones dating back 11,000 years have already been found and offer scientists valuable insight into how climate has changed in the Black Hills region over thousand of years. These scientists, including leader Jim Mead, a professor at East Tennessee State University, will work in conjunction with the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, to learn more about environmental change in  the Black Hills.

To protect the contents of the cave, National Park Service officials will not yet disclose the exact location of the cave to the public.

For more information, please visit the Wind Cave National Park’s website or the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s archive.

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Saturday, 09 May 2015 00:00

Black Hills Native Writes SD Mystery

Dan Jorgensen lived in the Black Hills and was a journalist in the area during the 1970s and 1980s.  KELOLand reports Jorgensen wrote his seventh book about an 1890s murder in Wind Cave.  Having worked as a journalist in his past, a real life mystery (later ruled as natural causes) worked as inspiration for his new historical fiction book.  This new book, And the Wind Whispered, is set to release June 1st.  Jorgensen plans to hold a book signing at Mitzi's Books in Rapid City at 1pm on June 13th, 2015.

For more information about Arts and Culture, visit our archive.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 00:00

Sen. Thune Plans Prescribed Burn Bill

Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune plans to introduce legislation that would have Congress set the parameters under which federal agencies could conduct future prescribed burns, the Rapid City Journal reports

Thune's action follows an April 13, 2015, prescribed burn at Wind Cave National Park that turned into the 6,500-acre Cold Brook wildfire. It took firefighters a week to contain the fire, and Thune said he believes some of it burned on private property and that smoke damaged the lungs of livestock. 

Thune's bill is likely to require that state and local governments be consulted before prescribed burns take place. He also has asked the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior the change policies for prescribed burns. 

Read more about the U.S. Congress on the Black Hills Knowledge Network.


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The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department wants to increase the number of elk in the Black Hills, reports South Dakota Public Radio.

Currently officials estimate the Black Hills wintertime elk population at about 6,300 outside Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park.  They hope to boost that to 7,000 over the next five years. 

This year the Game Fish and Parks Commission decided to increase the number of elk cow licenses to 500, up from 250 from last year. 

South Dakota's new Elk Management Plan was developed in conjunction with a number of interested parties and included a range of public comments.

Read more about wildlife management online from the Game, Fish & Parks Department.

Read more about wildlife on the Black Hills Knowledge Network

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