Neighboring Parks

Hidden History in the Black Hills

A monument built on stolen land.

Before the faces of four U.S. presidents were carved into Mount Rushmore, this mountain was called The Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Sioux. For generations, it drew many Great Plains tribes as a sacred place. In 1868, the U.S. government gave Lakota tribes exclusive use of the Black Hills. 

But when gold was discovered nine years later, the government seized the land. In 1922, Lakota tribes sued the U.S. government for illegally taking their land, launching a 60-year legal battle. In the meanwhile, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were sculpted into the rock. 

In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Lakota were entitled to more than $105 million in compensation, including interest, for their land being stolen. To date, the Lakota have declined the money, advocating for the return of the Black Hills.