Two Identical Markers
Though rising only 600 ft above the floor of the plains, Inyan Kara Mountain stands
as one of the most important cultural and historical landmarks of the Black Hills. Inyan
Kara forms an important part of the sacred geography of the Black Hills for the Lakota
and other northern Plains tribes. Traditional beliefs link Inyan Kara with other widely
recognized sacred sites including Devil's Tower or Bear Lodge, Sundance Mountain and
Bear Butte in South Dakota. The entire Black Hills region is spiritual landscape which
lies at the core of traditional belief systems. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie included
this spiritual landscape as part of the reservation established for the Lakota in South
Dakota and unceded Indian Territory in Wyoming and from which Euro-americans were
banned without express consent.
Exclusive use of the Black Hills by Lakota proved short-lived. In 1874, U.S. Army
Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer lead an expedition of 1000 men, 110
wagons and 500 cattle to the Black Hills in order to scout for likely places to establish
military posts and to explore for gold. Custer's column reached Inyan Kara on July 22,
1874. On July 23, Custer climbed the summit of Inyan Kara, leaving the inscription
"74 Custer." While camped at the base of the mountain, two of Custer's soldiers died;
Turner from a gunshot wound and John Cunningham from dysentery. Custer's
incursion into the Black Hills resulted in the discovery of gold near Deadwood, South
Dakota. The resulting gold rush provoked the Lakota, culminating in the bloody military
campaigns of 1876 and Custer's defeat and death at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
Inyan Kara Mountain was enrolled in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1973.
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