Group of mountains in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, U.S. Occupying about 6,000 sq mi (15,540 sq km), they lie between the Cheyenne and Belle Fourche rivers and rise to a maximum elevation of 7,242 ft (2,207 m) at Harney Peak. Their name refers to the dark appearance that their rounded hilltops and well-forested slopes present at a distance. The Sioux Indians were guaranteed treaty rights to the region in 1868; however, the discovery of gold in 1874 led to an influx of white miners and to the Black Hills War (1876), including the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Tourist attractions include the mining town of Deadwood, Mount Rushmore and Jewel Cave national monuments, Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park, all in South Dakota, and Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
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Prospectors motivated by the economic panic of 1873, began the Black Hills Gold Rush, in violation of the treaty and Federal law. Further tension resulted from the United States Army's inability to keep intruders out. Eventually, the Lakota, inspired by Sitting Bull and led by Crazy Horse attacked the intruders and fought the US Army. Some historians have speculated that the Ulysses S. Grant Administration deliberately provoked the war in order to open the gold fields, possibly to mitigate the economic panic.
In later battles in the summer and fall of 1876, including the Dull Knife Fight and the Battle of Slim Buttes, cavalry and infantry units defeated the Lakota war parties and forced the Lakota people to return to the agencies.
The war was finally ended with another treaty, in which the Lakota ceded a 50-mile (80 km) strip along the western border of their reservation, and some additional lands. This gave the U.S. legal title to the Black Hills and legalized the previously-illegal gold hunters and camp followers in Custer City, Deadwood, and other boom towns in the Black Hills.