National Park Service


Date of this Version



Submitted in fulfillment of Cooperative Agreement #CA606899103 between the U.S. National Park Service & The Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota


When Wind Cave National Park celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary in 1953, a Lakota delegation from the Pine Ridge Reservation was invited to attend the festivities. As a way of honoring the event, the Lakotas adopted the park s superintendent, Earl M. Semingsen and named him Tatanka Tokahe [First Bison Bull]. Two things are significant about this name. On the one hand, it associates the park with bison, a culturally important connection for the Lakotas, who have long believed that Wind Cave is the home of the Buffalo Nation; and on the other, it refers to the name of the first human to emerge from the subterranean depths of the Black Hills through the portal that many Lakotas identify as Wind Cave. Much of the landscape of Wind Cave National Park, both above and below ground, is sacred to the Lakotas because it is a site of genesis and because it holds important teachings at the foundation of the way Lakotas have come to identify themselves as a people. The same holds true for the Cheyennes who hold the geological depression known as the Race Track in high regard and associate it with important cosmological precepts and the origins of their Sun Dance. The Lakotas identify the Race Track with an important spiritual pilgrimage their ancestors followed and that some have tried to recreate in modem times. In the traditions of both tribal nations, the story of the Great Race tells how the nature of relationships between humans and animals was established and how various topographic features of the Black Hills came into being.