Friday, October 28, 2005

Bear Butte biker bar to get new name and new location

Bear Butte biker bar to get new name and new location
By Dan Daly, Journal Staff Writer Friday, October 28, 2005

STURGIS -- Sacred Ground, it turns out, was more sacred than Jay Allen realized.

Allen, the Arizona-based owner of the Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis, announced plans during the 2005 Sturgis motorcycle rally to build a rally-week biker bar and concert venue on land north of Bear Butte.

He was going to name it Sacred Ground as a tribute, he said, to nearby Bear Butte, a sacred site to the Lakota and other American Indian cultures.

Allen even talked about erecting tipis and building an 80-foot statue of an American Indian on the 600-acre site.

It would be open for business in time for the 2006 rally.

The announcement drew strong objections, however, from a number of Indians.

“Bear Butte and the surrounding area is indeed sacred ground, and this encroachment of sacred land must be stopped,” a group named the Bear Butte International Alliance wrote in a recent issue of the Lakota Journal.

“This business venture impacts more than one businessman’s vision. This will affect the quality of life for area residents and for everyone who holds Bear Butte dear to their hearts,” the column said.

On Thursday, Allen announced a number of changes to his plan.

He’s changing the name of the venue to Sturgis County Line.

He is going to build the concert venue at the far north end of the property. It will be farther from Bear Butte than the Dragpipe Saloon, which is already in business, Allen said.

He’s also going to make the land available for community events and American Indian celebrations during the rest of the year.

And the 80-foot Indian sculpture won’t be built.

“From the onset, I’ve reached my arms out to the Native American community with totally good intentions to recognize their heritage, only to discover that it was not well-received,” Allen said in Thursday’s news release. “I thought they would be so happy that someone in the rally business would care so much about their culture and the importance of what this land means.”

Allen said he believed that he could educate motorcycle tourists about American Indian culture.

“Granted, the rally is a great party. But experiencing the Black Hills is much more than that; it’s a spiritual encounter,” he said. “We intend to give the motorcycle tourist a more enchanting experience than ever before during rally because the land is so beautiful and inspiring.”

Allen also said that he had offered at one point to sell the 600 acres for what he paid to a tribe or Indian group that wanted to preserve the land. He said the same offer was made by Jim Reed, the rancher who sold the acres to him.

It is unclear how the changes will be received. The Bear Butte International Alliance temporarily withheld official comment Thursday.

But Mato Standing High, a lawyer and teacher at Black Hills State University, has been a critic of the plan. “Kind of makes it hard to go on a spiritual journey to the Black Hills with the background noise of ZZ Top and Harleys,” he said.

Contacted Thursday about Allen’s revised plan, Standing High said he remains unconvinced.

“I understand that they are trying to keep their distance, and they’re trying to do it respectfully,” Standing High said. “But it’s hard for somebody to engage in their religious practices when such activities are literally within view, within earshot.”

Contact Dan Daly at 394-8421 or