Friday, May 9, 2008

Saving sacred site Bear Butte issue more critical than ever

My commentary on Bear Butte, was published in Native Times on Monday May 5th, it is also available at the following link

Saving sacred site Bear Butte issue more critical than ever

by Tamra Brennan 5/9/2008


Greetings to all my relations,

I am writing to you today to alert you to the escalating commercial desecration of land held sacred by nearly all the Plains American Indian Nations, Bear Butte. Blatant disregard for the spiritual beliefs and ceremonies of Native People and the sacredness of this mountain is evidenced by the increased presence of bars, clubs, strobe lights, campgrounds that sell alcohol and a proposed stadium.

Bear Butte is a sacred mountain located eight miles west of Sturgis, South Dakota. It is registered as a National Historical Landmark. Bear Butte is sacred to the Plains Tribes who continue to travel to the mountain each summer to pray and hold their annual ceremonies. Instead of praying in peace, traditional people are forced to pray with loud music from bars, motorcycle noise, flashing strobe lights over the mountain, and intoxicated campers nearby.

For the past few years there has been a continual encroachment of bars and venues heading towards the sacred mountain. In the summer of 2006, the massive two story bar opened just one mile from the mountain, called Sturgis County Line. Their goal is to have a 50,000 seat concert stadium and a RV park, in addition to the newly built two story bar. The owner of this location, Jay Allen has been disrespectful from the start. He initially wanted to call the location “On Sacred Ground” and erect an 80-foot Indian statue pointing towards the sacred mountain. Of course this was not well received by Native People or others who understand the disrespectful nature of such an act. There has been a movement to stop Jay Allen, and further commercial development, ever since.

Unfortunately, there have been several developments since the summer of 2006. Expansions of Sturgis County Line are in progress and things continue to get worse.

On December 5, 2007 the Meade County Commissioners unanimously voted to revoke Jay Allen’s on-sale liquor license, seemingly a good thing. The decision was based upon, Jay Allen’s character, stating he was not a suitable person to hold the liquor license in question. The character issue was a result of Jay Allen defaulting on over $100,000.00 of debt, to local contractors who helped to build the Sturgis County Line, in 2006.

In January, Jay Allen appealed the Meade County Commissioners decision to revoke his license.
On April 14, 2008 the appeal was held before Judge Bastian, at the Meade County Courthouse. Allen testified he had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, purchase agreement on February 26, 2008 with Target Companies, a travel corporation from Boston, MA. The agreement terms were to be finalized on May 3, 2008. Allen stated upon completion of the agreement, his only role in the Sturgis County Line would be as a promoter, and because he was no longer the owner, his character could not be basis for license revocation. Judge Bastian remanded the decision back to Meade County Commissioners. His instructions asked the Commissioners to reconsider their decision to revoke, based upon the new information that Allen would no longer be the “owner” of Sturgis County Line.

The Judge’s decision was shocking; he re-wrote legislation at the bench. This ruling sets precedence for anyone in South Dakota, if you lose your liquor license due to poor character, the simple solution is to sell to a partnership, disassociate yourself on paper, and your liquor license will be restored. The intriguing part of this decision was, as of the court hearing date on April 14, 2008, Jay Allen was still the current owner and President of Bear Butte Sunsets LLC/ Sturgis County Line. As of the hearing, the only legitimate change had been new management, since the "sale agreement" would not be final until May 3, 2008.

The Meade County Commissioner’s held an Executive Session Meeting on April 24, 2008. They unanimously voted to appeal Judge Bastian’s decision. It has been directed to South Dakota Supreme Court for further clarification, to determine if Judge Bastian had the legal authority to make such a decision. A court date will be scheduled in the upcoming months.

Target Companies marketing campaign is very aggressive. Plans were announced to open Sturgis County Line year round. Biker rally events are currently scheduled in June, July and in August for the annual Sturgis Rally. So far, over a thousand bikers are scheduled to attend each event in June and July. The concert venue will be moving forward and by next summer there may be a concert stadium within a mile of Bear Butte. With this new year- round expansion, it will virtually become impossible ALL summer, to pray in peace at Bear Butte. This issue has escalated and is now, more critical than ever.

A campaign is in progress to educate the bikers, in regards to the significance and protection for Bear Butte. This has been an on-going effort to create awareness over the past two years. People from across the nation have participated in reaching out to the bikers. It is through awareness that we can help make a difference with this issue. We have support from many people within the biker community but most people remain unaware of the struggle. Many bikers have stated they were not aware of the significance of Bear Butte previously, but will now support us and act accordingly.
We ask for respectful behavior from people who are near the mountain. We want to limit the noise, intrusive lighting, and alcohol consumption near the mountain.

In addition, we struggle with continuing development. There is land for sale, literally at the foot of the mountain that will likely be purchased by a developer for the purpose of erecting yet another summer party venue. This property lies between Northern Cheyenne lands and Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s lands where prayer is taking place. Land prices have skyrocketed, artificially inflated due to the prospect of money-making development. Purchase of land by Tribal Nations has become unrealistic. We are at a crossroads. We need your help before the mountain is lost to us forever.

For up to date information regarding the protection of sacred sites and the ongoing Bear Butte efforts, please visit our website(s) at or

We are continuing the struggle to Protect Bear Butte and hope you will join us in these efforts!

"Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage and our lands; what’s left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten?"

In peace & solidarity,
Tamra Brennan
Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation

"Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage and our lands; what’s left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten?"

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