How South Dakota’s Black Hills Got Its Name
A few days ago, a coworker asked, "Why are they called the Black Hills?" and it made me realize I didn't know the answer either. So, I set out to find out.
The Black Hills of South Dakota were first formed in the era of the dinosaurs. Around 65-70 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. The human history of the Black Hills isn't as long as you might think. Early signs of people in the area go back to around 1743 when French explorers claimed the region for the country of France. Later the Sioux Indian tribes moved into the hills from Wisconsin and built a lasting culture there.
The railroad brought even more people to the Black Hills nearly one hundred years later, and that's also when the first maps of the area were drawn. But what about their name? It turns out it comes from the Lakotah.
How Did The Black Hills Get That Name?
The name "Black Hills" translates the Lakota phrase "Lakota Pahá Sápa". The reason they named them that? It was because of how the hills looked from a distance.
The next time you go to the Black Hills, pay attention to what they look like from miles and miles away. They do, in fact, have a tinge of darkness to them. It's not really an optical illusion, it's mainly because they're covered in trees. From a distance, the trees give the appearance that the hills are black, which, in fact, they are not.