Mammoth hunters were most likely the first humans to call this area home followed by nomadic tribes. The Lakotas, in the middle of the 1700s, eventually supplanted the Arikara tribe.
The advancement of civilization led by French trappers in the early part of the 19th century gradually signaled the end of Native American domination of the badlands, with the Lakota forced onto reservations by the time the 20th century arrived.
The Lakotas gave the area its name, calling it mako sica, which translates into "land bad." Today, a badlands describes a dry region of rugged terrain that offers a terrific challenge to cross. On March 4, 1929, the region became Badlands National Monument.
The United States Air Force used as much as 130,000 acres of the badlands as a bombing range---land that Congress added to the park in the late 1960s.
On Nov. 10, 1978, the United States Congress designated the area as Badlands National Park.