“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Sundance in Crook County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)

Paha Sapa, Black Hills

Geologic History of the Lakotas’ Sacred Hills

<i>Paha Sapa,</i> Black Hills Marker image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, June 7, 2011
1. Paha Sapa, Black Hills Marker
Inscription. Also known as "Temple of the Sioux," Sundance Mountain rises majestically in the southwest. It belongs to the Bear Lodge Mountain Range, which defines the northwestern edge of the Black Hills. It was named for the Plains Indians' religious ceremony—and in turn it provided the name for the town at its base, which dubbed one of its earliest and most notorious prisoners, the "Sundance Kid." In the Lakota language, the mountain is called Wi Wacipi Paha, which literally means Sun Dance Mountain. Some historians believe that this was the site of the first sun dance, held hundreds of years ago.

Oasis on the Plains
The Black Hills rise incongruously from surrounding prairies of the Great Plains. While the Plains Indians' main food source, bison, grazed in the open space of the prairies, the Black Hills provided such resources as wood, water, berries, shade, stone, minerals, and smaller prey. The hills are still important to the culture, with many sacred sites located here. The Black Hills cover an area 100 miles long and 50 miles wide that straddles the Wyoming-South Dakota border. Geologists call the formation a dome or uplift. This feature results from a mountain building event 80 million years ago called the Laramide Orogeny in which Precambian stone buried miles underground was pushed to the earth's surface. Upper,

Devil's Tower image. Click for full size.
By Bill Pfingsten, June 7, 2011
2. Devil's Tower
more recent layers of soft sedimentary rocks eroded away, exposing the ancient granite core at the center of the Black Hills, now surrounded by successively younger rings of stone.

Black Hills, Red Clays
Encircling the granite core of the Black Hills from inside out are the Madison limestone plateau, Red Valley, Dakota Hogback ridge, and an outer belt of mountains in the north. The Visitor Information Center is located in the Red Valley, also known as Redwater Valley, Red Beds and Red Racetrack. The last name refers to a Lakota account of a great running contest that caused the Black Hills to rise, spilling blood and staining the ground red. Notice the 200-300 million-year-old clays and shales around you that give the area its colorful name. Being extremely soft, this formation erodes easily, sculpting dramatic gullies and buttes. Interspersed deposits of bright white gypsum erode and dissolve even more quickly, leaving underground voids that collapse to create sinkholes like the Vore Buffalo Hunt.

A Ring of Mountains
The outermost ring of the Black Hills is a belt of mountains in the north. Some located nearby include: Sundance Mountain and the Bear Lodge Mountains to the west, the Black Buttes and Inyan Kara Mountain to the south, and Devils Tower and the Missouri Buttes to the northwest. Like the central peaks of the Black Hills, these are igneous rocks;

Black Hills image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, June 7, 2011
3. Black Hills
however, they formed late (53-55 million years ago) under very different conditions. They are called intrusions or Laccoliths; great blisters of lava that pressed upward between older layers of stone. The older rocks later eroded, exposing the igneous intrusions. Originating from the fiery center of the earth, several of these peaks figure in Lakota cosmology and serve in religious practices.
Location. 44° 31.661′ N, 104° 12.346′ W. Marker is in Sundance, Wyoming, in Crook County. Marker is on Interstate 90. Click for map. Marker is at the Wyoming Welcome Center. Marker is in this post office area: Sundance WY 82729, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Petrified Trees (here, next to this marker); The Vore Buffalo Jump (here, next to this marker); Bird of the Black Hills (here, next to this marker); Rich Colors, Rich Lands (here, next to this marker); The Custer Trail (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Vore Buffalo Jump (approx. 2.5 miles away); Understanding Bison Behavior Brought Success (approx. 2.5 miles away); The Ideal Hunting Ground (approx. 2.5 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Sundance.
Categories. Native AmericansPaleontology
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 814 times since then and 121 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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