Science offers many explanations for the existence of Wind Cave, one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world. Only five to ten percent of the system has been explored and mapped, making it truly an experience that can be called “otherworldly.”
But science offers a sterile explanation.
Consider the location of Wind Cave, in the heart of the Black Hills; land sacred to the Lakota. Look at the LANDSAT satellite imagery and see the image of a heart. Wind Cave breathes and Mother Earth’s heart pumps a life force for the PEOPLE who had this sacred land stolen from them. I am saddened when I read “official” National Park Service publications that say no one knows who discovered Wind Cave!
The Lakota have centuries of oral history, and a creation story that has survived. Oral tradition offers meaning and a preternatural prediction of what would happen to the people of the spirit world when they ventured through the opening of Wind Cave into what promised to be a good life on earth.
“In the beginning, prior to the creation of the Earth, the gods resided in an undifferentiated celestial domain and humans lived in an indescribably subterranean world devoid of culture.” ~~ Lakota Wind Cave Story
Inktomi, the Trickster, travels beneath the earth in the form of a wolf and convinced the people to follow him to the surface. The majority stayed behind, because this was against the wishes of the Creator, who wanted to prepare the people for life on earth. It was not yet time.
When this first group arrives, it becomes obvious that Inktomi has tricked them. They cannot return to Wind Cave, there is no food, and they starve.
The group that remained was blessed by Creator and finally led to the surface by a new leader. Tatanka was the gift of survival, but life outside of the spirit world remained difficult.
Creator gave Tatanka (bison) to the people with the promise that if the people cared for Tatanka, they would have all that they needed in terms of food and shelter. Then the whites killed Tatanka, broke treaties, stole land, and life outside of the spirit world became rife with misery.
The stories vary in detail, and I have combined some of them to create my own meaning. I am not a part of Lakota culture, but I can learn from the teachings.
When we turned out the lights in Wind Cave and experienced total darkness and silence, it was easy to imagine the people being led through this impossible labyrinth by a trusted leader who was in harmony with Creator.
We all must find our moral compass to lead us through the treachery and trickery of this world. Some of us will make it, and others will not. What is truth is that we cannot survive alone as we wander through the darkness.
The Lakota Sioux were promised, by treaty, to have the sacred Black Hills forever. After gold was discovered, the US government broke that promise. Now the images of five dead presidents loom over this sacred land at Mount Rushmore. Imagine how the people feel!
If you visit out here, avoid the carnival atmosphere of Mount Rushmore, and go instead to the Crazy Horse Memorial.
As Crazy Horse said, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
Reflect on Wind Cave and in this coming election cycle remind your people in government what the broken Treaty of 1868 promised:
“As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa, the Black Hills of Dakota, will forever be the sacred land of the Sioux Indians.”
Find your moral compass and mentally put your hand on the beating heart of Mother Earth. Feel her breath, take it in, and then humbly pray to find your way through the darkness.