Bear Butte forum calls for understanding
By Jason Gross, Meade County Times-Tribune staff Sunday, April 26, 2009
STURGIS -- People who consider Bear Butte a sacred site met for three hours Saturday morning to share their views on issues they fear could damage the peaceful atmosphere there and the use of the park as a place of worship for Native Americans.
One of those is the Meade County fire ban, imposed each July during the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Bear Butte State Park Manager Jim Jandreau explained that no campfires are allowed because of potential wildfire danger.
Ceremonial rites are affected, according to Jandreau. He encouraged those concerned to visit with fire officials, Game, Fish & Parks personnel and others about the issue.
"The intent was a safety factor," Jandreau said of the yearly ban. "It has nothing to do with our spirituality or ceremonial ways."
Janet Clairmont said she will address the Meade County Commission on Wednesday, May 6. She will make a request for Bear Butte Lodge fire pit approval, according to the meeting agenda.
A proposed annexation of land east of Sturgis is also a concern.
Uma Black Crow Wilkinson, who said protection of Bear Butte's land and water are important to her, said not many people are aware of the proposal and called for more meetings about that and other issues surrounding the butte.
Area rancher Ross Lamphere addressed that annexation, saying if the effort succeeds, city limits will be about 1/4-mile north of Bear Butte Creek along S.D. Highway 79.
Lamphere estimates that boundary would be less than 3 miles from Bear Butte, and said the city, through state statute, will have jurisdiction for platting purposes.
At least four parcels around the butte are for sale. Meeting attendee Nancy Hilding said one of those, the Grubl property, occupies 120 acres and has been on sale for two or three years.
"Most of the legislators were receptive to purchase of land," Sen. Jim Bradford, R-Pine Ridge, said, referring to efforts to have the state buy some of the land to create a buffer zone. He said some state funds could be available because the state received some stimulus funding.
Bradford emphasized he attended the meeting to get the people's perspective. "The legislators are ready," he said. "They know they want to do something."
Native people need to be in a primary consultation role for butte use and management, Black Crow Wilkinson said. She said Natives are consulted but need to be in more of a leadership role.
"The sacredness of that site should probably be considered above and beyond any recreational use," Black Crow Wilkinson said.
Bear Butte is one of seven Black Hills sites sacred to the Lakota, elder Marie Randall said.
Randall called for understanding about how people can work together. "We need to learn to do more sharing than controlling," Randall said.