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Great Plains Gallery

The Black Hills are a geologic dome rising 4000 feet above the surrounding plains. The high hills receive enough precipitation to allow pine forests to grow; the forests neatly outline the structure of the dome and give the Black Hills their name. In 1927, Gutzon Borglum selected the hard granite at the core of the dome for his great sculptures of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt at Mount Rushmore. Later in 1947, Korczak Ziolkowski found the hills to be equally suitable for his carved monument to Chief Crazy Horse, a work which is still in progress.

In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, giving rise to the last great gold rush in the lower 48 states. The Sioux Indians resisted the encroachment of miners in their territory, but were forced out of the hills and into reservations on the plains and badlands. The massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 marked the final chapter of the conflict.

The map points out the magnitude of the injustice. Pine Ridge Reservation at the southeastern corner of the map currently ranks as one of the most impoverished areas of the country, while the former Indian territories to the northwest have yielded vast amounts of gold, and the lands in Wyoming hold a wealth of oil. The historic Homestake mine in Lead ("leed") will have produced over 40 million ounces of gold before closing in December 2001.

The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind gave fame to another of the region's natural treasures. Standing 1000 feet above the plains, Devils Tower featured in the movie as the point of rendezvous with mysterious extraterrestrials.

The Black Hills

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All maps and content Copyright (c) 1999-2001 James R. Irwin.