The Lakota’s Emergence Story is based on the Natural Entrance to Wind Cave. It is a beautiful oral history of how the first people lived under the earth’s surface. They were to wait for their Creator to tell them when the earth was ready and it was okay to go to the surface, but some people were tricked by a wolf into going to the surface early. The Creator punished them by turning them into the first heard of Bison. Now the earth was finally ready for the people to live on it. The Creator told the people they could leave cave. Once on the surface, they saw the hoof prints of the bison. The Creator told them to follow the print and it would lead them to the bison where they could find everything they needed to survive. The Creator then shrunk the hole down so that most cannot fit through it, but would serve as a reminder so the people would never forget where they came from. The Lakota call this place Maka Oniye or “breathing earth.” (This was condensed from The Lakota Emergence Story as told by Wilmer Mesteth to Sina Bear Eagle who retold it for the National Parks reading material.)
The Natural Entrance Tour at Wind Cave National Park is a little over an hour long, covers two-thirds of a mile of the cave, is classified as moderately strenuous, and includes 300 stairs. The tour only costs $12 to go on. It is 54 degrees inside the cave year round. As you may have read in my overview post of Wind Cave National Park, this tour was the first and only bad cave experience that I have had thus far.
The tour started off well enough. The Park Ranger leading the tour took us to the natural entrance and told us The Lakota Emergence Story. He then led us through a two door system to enter the cave where we proceeded to start our decent down the stairs. There were about 40 people on the tour including 8 children ranging in ages from 3 to 12. I don’t remember much about the cave itself. I do, however, remember that the woman behind me kept slamming into the back of me because she wasn’t paying attention to the fact that everyone in front had stopped and that those of us not related to the kids, spent the entire tour trying to position themselves as far away from the kids as possible (they were loud, whiny, and a couple of the slightly older ones spent the entire tour discussing what sounded like a terrible TV show). All the unnecessary commotion and noise stressed me out to the point of nearly having an anxiety attack, while under ground, in a cave. It was definitely not a fun experience.
The next time I am in South Dakota, I would like to try going on this tour again and actually learning about the cave.