National Cemetery Administration
Black Hills National Cemetery
Visitation Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed federal holidays.
This cemetery has space available to accommodate casketed and cremated remains.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
A Veteran's spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran.
Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.
The cemetery is located two miles east of Sturgis and 25 miles west of Rapid City. From Rapid City Regional Airport, take Highway 44 west to Elk Vale Road. Turn north (right), travel approximately four miles to Interstate 90. Travel west on Interstate 90 to exit 34. The cemetery is on the left. From Sturgis, take Interstate 90 east to exit 34. The cemetery is on the right.
Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
For information on scheduled burials in our national cemeteries, please go to the Daily Burial Schedule.
Black Hills National Cemetery recently opened a columbarium for placement of your loved ones' cremated remains.
As the majority of our staff are Veterans, we are especially aware of the many and varied sacrifices made by our Nation's service men, women and their families. We are committed to maintaining our grounds in a manner reflecting the honor that is due. We will make every effort to demonstrate sensitivity to those who have suffered a loss. It is our practice to accommodate the needs of each family.
Military Funeral Honors
Although Black Hills National Cemetery does not have an honor guard, there are several honor guards in the area that provide military funeral honors for families. Please call a funeral director for availability.
For educational materials and additional information on this cemetery, please visit the Education section, located below.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. Fresh cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Artificial flowers and potted plants will be permitted on graves during periods when their presence will not interfere with grounds maintenance. As a general rule, holiday decorations and potted plants will be allowed on graves for a period extending 10 days before through 10 days after Easter Sunday. Memorial Day floral decorations may be placed the Friday prior to Memorial Day and must be removed by the Sunday following Memorial Day. Artificial flowers are allowed on graves starting the 2nd Saturday in October and must be removed by the 2nd Sunday in April.
Holiday wreaths, 18" in diameter, may be placed on graves from Thanksgiving through January 15. Grave blankets of any size are not permitted. Because of the high winds we frequently experience, we provide plastic ties and laminated flower tags, in the front foyer, to secure to the floral arrangements in case the flowers are blown off the gravesites. They may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent plantings, statues, vigil lights, breakable objects and similar items are not permitted on the graves. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit adornments that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel. For example, items incorporating beads or wires may become entangled in mowers or other equipment and cause injury.
VA regulations 38 CFR 1.218 prohibit the carrying of firearms (either openly or concealed), explosives or other dangerous or deadly weapons while on VA property, except for official purposes, such as military funeral honors.
Possession of firearms on any property under the charge and control of VA is prohibited. Offenders may be subject to a fine, removal from the premises, or arrest.
Black Hills National Cemetery is located three miles east of Sturgis, S.D., in the shadows of the Black Hills. This region is the homeland of the Lakota Sioux Indians who traversed the Great Plains before the advent of Europeans in the mid 18th century. French explorers first arrived in the early 1740s, and Spain acquired sovereignty over the region in 1762. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase gave the United States title to the region. Yet, until 1856 when Fort Randall was established, fur trappers and traders were the sole European settlers. Soon after, the towns of Vermillion and Yankton became permanent establishments, and by 1861 the Dakota Territory had been formed.
The greatest rush of European immigration came in 1874 when gold was discovered in the Black Hills. A wave of prospectors flooded the area, radically transforming the region and causing disturbances as well as creating opportunities. Legally, the Black Hills had been closed to white settlement under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The military, however, was in no position to halt the advancing settlers. In fact, it was the military that encouraged settlements when the 7th Cavalry, under Gen. George Custer, reported the discovery of gold.
America's first transcontinental railroad was completed in May 1869 through the combined efforts of government and private corporations. Subsidiary rail lines such as the Dakota Southern Railroad, established in 1872, proved to be more important for bringing newcomers into the region. Between 1870 and 1890, the white population in the Dakota Territory increased six fold.
The influx of settlers onto the Great Sioux Reservation culminated in a war of cultures at the Battle of Little Bighorn in June 1876. As a result of Custer's defeat, American Indians were forced to accept a reduction in their reservation land. This cleared the way for further development by settlers, which further angered the American Indians. As a result, the Fort Meade military reservation was established in the region shortly afterwards. The last serious cultural conflict began in the fall of 1890 with the death of Sitting Bull and ended with the massacre of hundreds of American Indians at Wounded Knee. Thus, barriers to settlement of the region eased.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new railroads were laid across the Dakotas and aided in the further development of numerous communities. In 1890, Pierre was chosen as the permanent capital of South Dakota. Twelve years later, in 1902, the Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established in nearby Hot Springs to aid in the care of veterans within the region. Cemeteries at both the Fort Meade Military Reservation and the former sanitarium eventually became a part of the National Cemetery System in 1973.
Monuments and Memorials
In 1990, a memorial carillon was dedicated at the cemetery. It was replaced in 2005.
A memorial to Korean War veterans was dedicated in 2002.
Bivouac of the Dead erected 2004. A 52 Charlie memorial was dedicated in 2007.
Medal of Honor Recipients
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Recipients receive the Medal of Honor from the president on behalf of Congress. It was first awarded during the Civil War and eligibility criteria for the Medal of Honor have changed over time.
Recipients buried or memorialized here:
Sergeant Charles Windolph (Indian Wars). He received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Army, Troop H, 7th Cavalry, for actions at the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, June 25–26, 1876. Windolph died in 1950 and is buried in Section A, Site 239.
Senator Francis H. Case was transferred from a private cemetery on December 3, 1981 and rests in Section F, Site 789.
Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth, Commander of Rapid City Air Force Base (which was renamed Ellsworth Air Force Base in his honor). Ellsworth died on March 18, 1953 and rests in Section D, Site 10.
John Bear King of South Dakota enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 18, 1943. PFC Bear King was one of eleven known Lakota Code Talkers in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The 2008 Code Talkers Recognition Act honored all Code Talkers from World War I and World War II and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to American Indian tribes whose members participated in the top secret program; individuals would receive a Congressional Silver Medal. In 2013, the Lakota Code Talkers received their medals. Bear King died September 2, 1949, and is one of two Lakota Code Talkers interred in a VA national cemetery (Section E, Site 1394).
Clarence Eugene Wolf Guts, native of South Dakota, enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 17, 1942. He was one of eleven known Lakota Code Talkers in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He served in the army until January 13, 1946, as the personal Code Talker for Gen. Mueller. The 2008 Code Talkers Recognition Act honored all Code Talkers from World War I and World War II, and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to American Indian tribes whose members participated in the top secret program; individuals would receive a Congressional Silver Medal. In 2013, the Lakota Code Talkers received their medals. PFC Wolf Guts was the last living member of the Oglala Lakota Code Talkers from World War II. He died June 16, 2010, and is one of two Lakota Code Talkers interred in a VA national cemetery (Section H, Site 260).
We are developing educational content for this national cemetery, and will post new materials as they become available. Visit the Veterans Legacy Program and NCA History Program for additional information. Thank you for your interest.