Wind Cave-Wasun Wiconiya Wakan Sacred Breath or Breath of Power Cave
Written by JD
April 9, 2018

That vast lookin open prairie can seem deceptively empty. But look closely, those dark spots in the distance might be buffalo (bison fer ya folks needin ta be particular like) standin thar in tall prairie grasses, or a smaller coyote huntin prairie dogs.
Although nearby Wind Cave provided an early example of how a cave might be developed as a tourist attraction, circumstances at Wind Cave an Jewel Cave differed. Wind Cave benefited from better an closer railroad an road access, the attraction of nearby hot springs that functioned year round, the economic support an promotion of private entrepreneurs havin economic resources, an, beginnin in 1903, the publicity an administrative support that came with national park status.
Wind Cave is ranked as 5th or 6th largest cave in the world dependin on who’s measurin an when.
Wind Cave National Park’s main purpose in 1903, when it became the 7th National Park, was ta protect the cave but by 1912 protectin native wildlife was recognized as equally important. In the late 1880s buffalo herds had been eliminated from the area. The Bronx Zoo donated 14 buffalo in 1913 ta begin the reestablishment of a large herd ta the Wind Cave prairie. But don’t go makin any mistake, these here beasts ain’t docile city zoo critters – these are fast, dangerous beasts weighin up ta 2000 pounds with little patience. They think they own the earth an ya ain’t wantin ta be close an in their way.
Elk Mountain Campground in Wind Cave National Park is a little-known treasure fer tenters an RVers needin only a beautiful campground with fire rings, water an restrooms with a number of great trails nearby includin the southern trailhead of the 111-mile Centennial Trail.
The buildins of the park Visitor Center are noted examples of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) presence in the Black Hills in 1933 ta 1942 an the contributions of hundreds of industrious young men durin our country’s depression.
Thar are many choices of tours in the many miles of explored passageways below the surface that provide many excitin visions of beauty from the delicate ta the massive.
In the fall of 2011, 5555 acres of historic ranch land was added ta Wind Cave National Park includin the old Sandon homestead an an old buffalo jump used by early inhabitants a thousan years ago – AN – listen up – a whole NEW CAVE. Generations of ranchers knew it was thar but seems their interest in it was only ta keep their cattle from fallin in. When checked, it appears it ain’t been disturbed by any humans an is considered a significant find fer cavers an historians.
An archaeologically significant find, Wind Cave National Park was radiocarbon dated from 7,550 ta 8,570 BP (meanin Before Present) so we know that some type of folks were livin in the Black Hills at least then.
Paleo-Indian occupations were concentrated in the Black Hills interior (west-central limestone plateau—an area defined by Beaver Creek, Deerfield, Moon, an Gillette ridges).
Probably no area speaks ta the ideas of the sacredness of the Black Hills better than Wind Cave an its lands, which include the Race Track, the Buffalo Gap, an the Hot Springs. The identification of Wind Cave as a sacred site appears ta be recent, at least from the vantage point of published sources, but like most things in these here parts, it has its controversy.
Lakota oral tradition tells us that the Lakota beginnin on the surface of Unci Maka (Grandmother earth) began when Wasun Wiconiya Wakan (Wind Cave) provided the openin from which the Lakota emerged
from their subterranean world ta the surface of the world.
The world was divided inta regions; the sky, the earth, the waters an the underworld. When humans were created, they were placed in the subterranean region, the underworld. At this time the Lakota called themselves the Pte Oyate, Buffalo Nation.
Their leader/chief in the underworld was Wazi an his wife was Wakank. Because they became selfish an sought power through their beautiful daughter, Ite (Face), they were banished ta the edge of the world with their daughter Ite.
The Lakota emergence story begins with Iktomi (the Spirit Trickster). Iktomi transformed himself inta a wolf, went ta the entrance that leads ta the subterranean world of Wasun Wiconiya Wakan (Wind Cave) an tricked the humans ta come ta the surface of the earth by offerin them food an clothin. The first human ta follow the wolf is Tokahe (The First) an three other men. They return ta the underworld an tell others of the wondrous things they saw on the surface.
Tokahe takes his family an persuades six men an their families ta leave their subterranean home an come ta the surface of the earth. But once on earth they wants ta return ta their home when they grow tired, cold an hungry. After searchin fer some time, they couldn’t find the entrance ta their home because Iktomi (the Trickster) had disguised it an reduced the size of the entrance.
Wazi an Wakanka find them an teach them how ta make clothin an tipi homes, how ta hunt buffalo an prepare food so they could live on earth. From then on the Lakota lived on the earth. The first seven families who came onta the earth with Tokahe (The First) were the original ancestors of the Seven Council Fires an they represent each star in the Big Dipper.
Keep in mind that thar are numerous versions told with slight differences as can happen with numerous tellers. Jus know that Wasun Wiconiya Wakan (Wind Cave) has many stories an experiences ta share fer Native Americans, whites an others too – an memories fer all ta keep when ya visit.
Always make sure ta stop in the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce an Visitors Bureau fer all yer questions an free suggestions; 615 Washington Street (an fer Pete’s sake, don’t go relyin on Google an other such ‘media thingy’ maps in the Black Hills, those folks ain’t been out here an can tell ya ta turn right inta a rock wall or ravine.)
Take care of yer ride an he’ll take care of ya. Ifn ya wants ta go lookin fer me, might find me sittin on my favorite library bench enjoyin a cold one, or might not. Adios.
JD



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