Top 10 Native American Experiences
Twelve Native American tribes are deeply rooted in the Black Hills and there are many unique opportunities to learn and appreciate sacred stories, lifeways, arts, and traditions in Rapid City and the surrounding area. We’ve pulled together a helpful list based off ratings and reviews on Tripadvisor.
1 - Black Hills Powwow
The Black Hills Powwow draws thousands to Rapid City every October to join this celebration of community. Take part in this three-day cultural event and display of talents from hundreds of Native American dancers, singers, and artisans.
Event tip: Always walk around the Circle of the powwow. This shows respect for tribal customs and traditions. Avoid walking into a drum group or through dance grounds and breaking the Circle.
2 - Crazy Horse Memorial®
See the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. Crazy Horse is revered as a Native American war leader and fearless defender of Native American culture, territory, and life. Born in 1840 along Rapid Creek, Crazy Horse became one of the most powerful and most recognized Native American figures of the Lakota Indian Tribe. Tour the grounds and witness Native American performances, visit with Native American artisans, spend time in the Indian Museum of North America, and learn from one-of-a-kind educational exhibits.
3 - Badlands National Park
The area known today as Badlands National Park was the hunting grounds for American Indians for thousands of years. Sixty minutes east of Rapid City, take in the wonders and wildlife of this fascinating place. Stop by the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to learn more about the “land of stone and light” and the Lakota people who still live south of the park today. Arrive at sunrise or sunset to experience the vibrant colors of sediment layers in the eroding terrain.
4 - Black Elk Peak
At 7,242 feet above sea level, Black Elk Peak is the highest point in the United States east of the Rockies. Black Elk was an Oglala Lakota medicine man who was present at the Wounded Knee massacre and respected as a powerful visionary. He witnessed many changes in Native American life and culture between 1863 and 1950, and his memory is honored at this sacred spot. Prayer cloths may be present along the trail and visitors are asked not to disturb them. After a moderately difficult hike to the summit, enjoy landscape views of the Black Hills from the historic lookout tower.
Travel tip: In 2016, Black Elk Peak was renamed from Harney Peak by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Visit the Journey Museum exhibit to learn about the historic events and Native American renaming campaign leading to this decision.
5 - Native POP: People of the Plains Art Market
Embrace creativity at a free annual indigenous art show and market in Downtown Rapid City. This celebration of cultural expression features two- and three-dimensional artworks, handcrafted jewelry, music, film, fashion and more from emerging and established Great Plains Native artists.
Event tip: Don’t miss the Fashion show featuring original pieces from Native American designers and models. Grab a seat near the runway in Main Street Square to catch the excitement of vibrant colors, intricate beadwork, contemporary styles, and much more.
6 - Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park is one of the oldest parks in the country. Honor the sacred connections of Lakota culture at Wind Cave – the place of their emergence from the Spirit World onto the earth. Listen and learn about this storied legend at the visitor center before entering the cave. Explore 30 miles of hiking trail above ground or go underground on a ranger-guided tour through narrow passageways filled with geological phenomena.
7 - Prairie Edge Trading Company & Galleries
Discover the finest selections of Native American crafts, beadwork, regalia, music and more in Downtown Rapid City. Prairie Edge Trading Co. was started with two primary purposes: to educate the public and preserve the heritage and culture of the Northern Plains Indians, and to provide Northern Plains Indian artists an outlet for their artwork.
Travel tip: The store often hosts artists on site to showcase their art, demonstrate their creative process, and meet visitors in person.
8 - The Journey Museum & Learning Center
Take a journey through time at this expansive museum with interactive displays, featuring geology, paleontology, archaeology, Native American culture and more. Don’t miss the Star Room, which symbolizes the creation of the universe. Inside, you'll find Lakota constellations that mirror the Black Hills. Look closely to see familiar landmarks, like Devil's Tower (Mato Tipila) and Black Elk Peak (Wiciŋcala Sakowin)!
9 - Bear Butte State Park
Separated from the rest of the Black Hills by more than a mile, Bear Butte, a 1,200-foot tall geological formation, offers a widespread view of its surroundings. Mato Paha or "Bear Mountain" is the Lakota name given to this site. The mountain is a sacred place to the Lakota, Cheyenne and all the indigenous tribes of the Northern Plains, who continue to come to Bear Butte for ceremonies and prayer. The colorful cloth and small bundles tied to trees along the trail are prayer offerings left behind and visitors are asked to be respectful of worshippers and their spiritual practices.
10 - Dakota Drum Company
Find locally made items and stunning Native American art at Dakota Drum Company. Stop in to meet local Lakota Artist Sonja Holy Eagle and watch as she paints traditional buffalo hide drums and Powwow drums in her own unique style. In addition to quality drums, the store showcases traditional bead work and quillwork created by artists of the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and the Rosebud reservations.