Publication Date

Summer 2019

Committee Members

Dr. Elizabeth Brabec, Chair Dr. John R. Mullin, Member Dr. Robert Ryan, Member


The historical and continuing cultural significance of the Black Hills to Native Peoples is well documented, as is the relatively recent mineralogical significance of the area to non-indigenous Americans. Human habitation of the area may go back thirteen thousand years and many tribal groups are known to have occupied, used, or otherwise laid claim to portions of this region. Full recognition by non-native Americans of the long-standing and very different cultural significance the Black Hills held historically and continues to hold for Native Peoples is still a work in progress. It is the author’s hope that this ethnobotany of Mount Rushmore will further that recognition by providing a discussion of the floral resources of the Memorial specific to their historic use by Native Americans for food, medicine, manufacture (life needs), and ceremonial purpose. It is intended as an informational tool for park personnel and docents who have not been raised with a traditional knowledge of plants. The National Park Service has recorded 459 species of plants within the Memorial; of those species, 288 have been recorded as having some use by any native tribe and 153 of those species have records of use by tribes known to have occupied or used the Black Hills region. The 96 species highlighted in this paper includes many of the species recorded in vegetation monitoring conducted in Mount Rushmore, species that had uses recorded for all four categories (food, medicinal, manufacture, and ceremonial/sacred), and species with distinctive characteristics that might make them more easily recognizable to park visitors. Information for the 288 plant species is presented in a table using the four categories of use and a fifth category that provides general information regarding the habitat and elevation where each species might be found within the Black Hills.