people have inhabited the area for more than 11,000 years, the earliest of which were mammoth hunters. the Lakota moved in during the 18th century and came to dominate the region in part because of the command of horses they learned from Spaniards (it’s much easier to hunt bison on horseback …). French trappers quickly encroached on the Lakota, and they were shortly followed by soldiers (see: Custer), miners (see: Deadwood), cattle farmers and homesteaders (see: Dust Bowl).
following Wounded Knee, the Lakota were confined primarily to reservations, including the Pine Ridge Reservation which shares oversight of the Stronghold Unit of Badlands National Park. during the Second World War, the U.S. Government took possession of more than 300,000 acres of the Reservation to use the land as a gunnery range. accuracy wasn’t always great and several buildings in the town of Interior (just south of the North Unit of the park) were damaged. nearby farmers often had to take cover to save themselves from falling or misdirected ordinance. among the many informational PDFs available on the Park website is one on the history of the gunnery range that includes information on identifying and avoiding unexploded ordinance (UXO).
the site was authorized to become a National Monument in 1929 but didn’t become one until a decade later. it was redisignated a National Park in 1978 and in 1999 took over supervision of the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historical Site.