Friday, December 12, 2008

Grass roots group disappointed with ruling

Grass roots group disappointed with ruling
By Babette Herrmann, Today correspondent

Story Published: Dec 11, 2008

STURGIS, S.D. – Meade County Planning Commission granted an on-sale liquor license to owners of the Broken Spoke Saloon Dec. 3. Prior to this approval, the commission granted the owners an off-sale license to sell alcohol to those on the go. The saloon is within the boundaries of the 600-acre Broken Spoke Campground located off Highway 79 in Sturgis.

But the approval came as a disappointment to supporters of Protect Bear Butte, a grass roots organization spearheaded by local resident Tamra Brennan. The group has fought to protect Bear Butte State Park from what they perceive as encroaching development and disrespectful activities near this location held sacred to Plains Indians since time immemorial.

Revelers of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held in August, generate most of Broken Spoke’s primary source of income. Located about one mile from the border Bear Butte, the campground, hosts concerts and variety shows during the rally – and those that oppose liquor sales say this campground – and others like it – threatens the sanctity of Bear Butte.

About 25 people showed up to the late afternoon hearing. Brennan, Eastern Cherokee, said that now the commission has approved the sale of alcohol, it will only fuel the already unwanted noise, lights and raucous behavior during the rally and other biker-oriented events.

“We have been opposing this for three years now, and [the commission] never seem to listen to what we have to say on the issue, she said. “They approve without fail, so it’s actually no surprise that they approved it again.”

Located on the northeast edge of the Black Hills, Bear Butte’s elevation of 4,422 feet was formed millions of years ago by intrusions of igneous rock – creating a majestic loner flanked by golden plains. Natives gather there for ceremonies and send individuals on vision quests. Many more come to pray and leave offerings.

During the meeting one of the seven individuals that spoke in opposition to the license requested a one-mile buffer zone around the mountain, but was quickly rebuffed by Commissioner Chair Robert Mallow.

“I think that whenever you put a barrier around something, you’re taking the livelihood away from some of the occupants,” he said. “And I think you’re taking their right away.”

Commissioners said that they had no grounds to deny the private property rights of Broken Spoke, especially since the bar was nowhere near homes, an apartment building with small children, or across from a church.

Brennan responded by saying that Bear Butte “has been our church for thousands of years.”

Jim Seward, an attorney representing Broken Spoke, said that Brennan’s residence was within one mile of the “church” and that if his clients are in violation, so is Brennan.

“If there was a one mile protective buffer zone around Bear Butte, I expect that the sheriff, or someone, would have to go out and remove Miss Brennan from that one mile protection zone because she lives inside the church; and, I think with that comment she should understand the ridiculous nature of taking away somebody’s private property right,” he said.

In a separate interview, Brennan said that the campground serves as a front for “adult entertainment” activities during the rally, featuring activities such as wet T-shirt contests – something commissioners should have addressed prior to their vote.

Meanwhile, Brennan said that she and supporters plan on seeking legal action to further protect Bear Butte.

And she expects her organization’s release of the documentary “On Sacred Ground” by early next year to further increase public awareness on the importance of protecting and preserving Bear Butte State Park.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Update regarding Bear Butte, Meade County Commissioners Hearing today.

December 3, 2008

Update regarding Bear Butte, Meade County Commissioners Hearing today.
from: Tamra Brennan - Protect Sacred Sites, Indigenous People One Nation

First of all, I would like to thank everyone that took a moment to send in their opposition letters to the Meade County Commissioners, opposing these venues surrounding Bear Butte.

Well, it comes as no surprise, the Meade County Commissioners unanimously approved all of the liquor license renewals at today's hearing. Seven people provided oppositions against the venues surrounding Bear Butte. Testimonies requested for the Commissioners and Rally venues to respect Bear Butte as a sacred place, as our church. Requesting a buffer zone around Bear Butte to protect the mountain, as a sacred place. Requesting that these venues take responsibility for their actions, as what they really are, "adult entertainment venues."

During my opposition testimony, I specifically requested for the Meade County Commissioners to explain in detail the criteria they use, to determine "location" and "character," as these are the only two issues that could potentially deny or revoke a liquor license. As many of you may remember, Jay Allen had his liquor license revoked twice in 2007, due to "lack of character" issue. This was based upon the fact, that he failed to pay the local contractors for work completed on Broken Spoke Campground bar. On repeated occasions, Commissioner Wink publicly stated that he felt that these venues were far enough away, that location was not a issue. When I questioned if this was the case, why were venues directly at the base of Bear Butte also approved for liquor licenses. What was the distance criteria? The Commissions response was, "if the location was near homes, a apartment building with small children, or if it was across from a church." My immediate response was these venues ARE across from a church, Bear Butte is our church and has been for thousands of years. The Commission's response was, we will not get into a discussion about religion, so they completely disregarded the question.

Jim Seward, the attorney for Broken Spoke Campground made some appalling and extremely disrespectful statements in regards to all seven testimonies and oppositions. His comments completely disregarded all of our testimonies, as if they were irrelevant or absurd. He stated "that there is no evidence in the record today, there has been no evidence offered or admitted into the record to support the denial of any of these licenses. If there was a one mile buffer zone around Bear Butte, I would expect that the sheriff would have to also remove Ms. Brennan from that one mile protection zone, as she lives inside the church. I think with that comment, she should understand the ridiculous nature of someone taking away someone's private property rights, that is what we would be doing if we were so rude to say that she should move from the base of the mountain, because I want a one mile buffer zone around Bear Butte"

The irony in this statement is apparently Mr. Seward is not familiar with the history of the Black Hills, the broken treaties and the fact to this day, it is still STOLEN LAND! The reality is, they have no property rights, the Fort Laramie Treaty still applies today. They are trespassing. Besides the fact, "in their ridiculous nature" taking away property rights, is exactly what they did to the Indigenous People of Turtle Island.

In addition to the liquor license hearing today, the Commissioners held a special meeting for public comments at 3pm, regarding the four applicants that are candidates to replace Commissioner Dean Wink. Tomorrow they will be officially interviewing the applicants and making a decision after the interviews. One of the applicants, Fred McPherson is a life long well respected local resident, of the Bear Butte district and has stood beside us supporting the cause from the beginning. Several of us, gave our supportive comments to the Commissioners on his behalf. If he is selected tomorrow, this will be a huge step forward for the cause! Keep praying that he is selected at tomorrow's meeting!

Here is a article from KEVN, they were in attendance today

The battle to keep Bear Butte a sacred place, free of alcohol, continues. The Meade County Commission Wednesday voted to renew several liquor licenses for businesses near Bear Butte. But not without a fight from some residents who strongly oppose bars doing business in that area. Many Native Americans consider Bear Butte a sacred site and people who don't want bars located in that area turned out in force again at Wednesday's hearing to voice their opposition. The commissioners said they had no choice but to renew the licenses. They say they could deny a license renewal only in a case in which the business is in poor standing with the county. At Wednesday's hearing, one opponent suggested putting a one-mile barrier around Bear Butte. Commission chair Robert Mallow said - as long as the current group of commissioners is on the board - that won't happen. Robert Mallow says, "I think that whenever you put a barrier around something, you're taking the livelihood away from some of the occupants. And I think you're taking their right away." Opponent Tamara Brennan says she was not surprised by Wednesday's ruling because the commissioners vote this way every time. What upset her most, she says, were comments from an attorney for the Broken Spoke - one of the businesses near Bear Butte. Tamara Brennan says, "He said that I would have to move as well because that would be in the one mile buffer. I'm not the one who is having wild parties and doing strobe lights and helicopters over the mountain. I pray there everyday so there's a big difference between them and myself." Meade County Commissioner Dean Wink resigned from the board Wednesday after winning a seat in the state legislature last month. The commissioners will interview and pick a candidate to fill Wink's position Thursday. Opponents at Wednesday's hearing hope the new commissioner will be more sensitive to their requests.

I am attaching two audio files from Jim Seward's statement above.

Thank you for your continued support for the protection of Bear Butte! For additional information about the ongoing efforts to Protect Bear Butte, please visit our website at

Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation is a grass roots organization, working towards the protection of sacred sites across the country. Our organization has been actively involved with the ongoing struggle to Protect Bear Butte for several years. We are continuing these efforts, our organization is currently leading the campaign regarding the new developments and further expansions at Bear Butte. Please visit our main website at and our dedicated website for Bear Butte at

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at