With President Theodore Roosevelt’s signature, Wind Cave became the nation’s eighth national park. It was also the first national park established to protected a cave.
Wind Cave is sacred to many indigenous tribes in the region, including the Lakota people who deem Wind Cave as their place of creation. The Lakota people believe they are descendants of the Buffalo Nation who emerged from the cave. The first individual to emerge from the cave learned the traditional Lakota way of life and returned into the cave to tell his nation about the surface of the earth. Once everyone emerged, they found they were unable to return to the cave and so they began life anew and established the Seven Council Fires.
While several mining claims occurred at Wind Cave, one of the most noteworthy was made by the South Dakota Mining Company. In 1890, J.D. MacDonald set out to explore the cave in hopes of mining it, but his efforts were unsuccessful. However, MacDonald was not without vision for the cave. He recognized the ability to provide tours of the cave and selling pieces of formations from it.
After filing a homesteading claim for the land, the MacDonald family devoted his time to creating a larger entrance to the cave while his son Alvin, explored the cave, mapping his explorations in a diary. By January of 1891, Alvin MacDonald had abandoned his efforts to find the end of Wind Cave.
In 1893, the MacDonalds joined forces with John Stabler and formed the Wonderful Wind Cave Company. Following the untimely death of Alvin MacDonald, however, the relationship between the MacDonalds and Stablers soured. When their concerns reached the Department of Interior, the agency ruled that since no actual mining had occurred in land held by a mining claim, neither party had a claim to the land. Taking the land out of homesteading status allowed for it to be placed into the protection of the federal government ten years later.