May 24, 2009
Sacred Sites –vs- A Modern Day Disease, Greed
“Our Sacred Ground is Not Your Playground”
By Tamra Brennan
Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation
Bear Butte is a sacred site located in the Black Hills, eight miles east of Sturgis South Dakota.
The mountain is sacred to many of the Plains Tribes, including Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, Northern and Southern Cheyenne, Northern and Southern Arapaho. For thousands of years, Tribes have traveled up to hundreds of miles to Bear Butte for their annual ceremonies. Many people today still make their annual journeys to the mountain, from May through August.
Unfortunately, the ongoing struggle to Protect Bear Butte, against the continual encroachment and desecration caused by Sturgis Bike Rally venues, continues today. We have been battling these venues near Bear Butte since 2006. These large biker bars and concert venues continue to expand with further development, hosting huge concerts, bringing tens of thousands of people, vehicles and motorcycles towards Bear Butte.
During the August 2008 Sturgis Rally, Glencoe Campground’s, Rock’n the Rally venue located on Hwy 79 one mile south of Bear Butte, hosted the group KISS bringing absolute chaos to the area. Seven miles and three hours of gridlocked traffic, all headed towards Bear Butte. The same day, Buffalo Chip located off of Hwy 34 & 79, hosted Senator McCain and Kid Rock, multiplying to the chaos. Long time local residents stated they had never seen anything like this before, the worse traffic and chaos they had ever seen out this way.
The following day after the huge concert, a tornado warning swept thru Sturgis causing severe hail and thunderstorms. It was one of the worst thunderstorms in many years, right in the middle of the Sturgis Rally. Two people were actually struck by lightning at Glencoe Campground during this storm. The very campground, that caused all the chaos the previous day, next to Bear Butte. Coincidence, or a clear message from the Creator, you be the judge.
In December 2008, the virtual 600 acre bar, Glencoe Campground and Rock’n the Rally were sold to non residents Sean Clark and Devorah Lopez from California and Arizona, for a reported $8.4 million dollars. There are serious character issues with these individuals, which will be disclosed during the upcoming June 2nd hearing at Meade County Commissioners.
Another attack against the mountain during the 2008 Sturgis Rally, were helicopter flights from four separate Rally venues adjacent to Bear Butte, including Broken Spoke Campground, Buffalo Chip, Ride N Rest Campground and Lamphere Ranch.
In June 2008, Target Logistics, the new owners of Broken Spoke Campground, in their tenacity were quoted in the Rapid City Journal regarding the helicopter rides, stating "If someone asks to fly over Bear Butte, we'd take them unless it's not allowed." After several months of battling against it, publicly opposing the issue with our media campaign, working with FAA, and during the Rally physically being on the ground talking with these pilots, we were able to put a stop to flights over the mountain. After a huge fight regarding this issue, Broken Spoke finally stated they would not be flying over the mountain, and their helicopter pilot never showed up during the Rally. Three of the venues continued to offer flights, the pilots agreed to stay away from flying over the mountain.
The desecration from these venues worsens each year, with what they bring to the sacred mountain, Bear Butte. The disrespect is evidenced with loud music heard for miles, huge concerts, strobe lights, helicopters, motorcycle traffic, pyrotechnic firework shows, lude behavior, drunkenness and a half a million people, within less than a few miles of one of this nation’s most sacred places, Bear Butte.
People often ask, how can they get away with this and why isn’t the local governments doing anything about it? The simple answer is called greed, it is yet another sign of the times, a modern day disease that has consumed people. It continues to feed upon today’s money hungry corporate America, and a local county that refuses to take a stand to protect a sacred site and historical landmark. The bottom line is the tourism, promoting the Rally and adult entertainment in these venues, supersedes any Native American religious beliefs, our spirituality, the sacredness and tranquility of the mountain.
Laws were created and are in place to protect our religious rights, Including, The American Indian Freedom of Religion Act of 1978, Executive Order 13007
Protection and Accommodation of access to Indian Sacred Sites, and Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act of 1993, these laws are continually violated by the decisions made by the Meade County Commissioners and these venues.
In last years Meade County Commissioners hearing, I proposed a question asking for clarification on the Commissioners definitions of a “church.” Commissioner Robert Mallow responded to my questioning, stating that Bear Butte is NOT considered a “church” under their definition, that he was not going to debate religion with me.
Thousands of years of Tribal Nations coming here to pray, to fast, for healing and for guidance apparently doesn’t met their standards for classifying the mountain as a church. These statements were not only insulting, but demoralizing to an entire people’s spirituality and belief system.
As a local resident, I wonder what desecration the mountain will be subjected to this year, praying there will be a way to stop it. We have to continue to speak out and oppose what is occurring at all of our sacred places, if we sit back and accept the destruction, our way of life will fade away in a memory long so forgotten.
There have been many ups and downs in this issue, with many losses, but also a few victories. Each year there has been progress in these efforts, creating awareness for the issue, gaining support from across the country especially within the biker communities. The word is reaching out to the bikers about our plight to Protect Bear Butte, thru our ongoing efforts with the Bikers for Bear Butte campaign, which has been very successful thus far. Last year, we found that the bikers themselves were discussing the issue and helping us spread the word in a positive way, about the protection efforts. Education is a critical tool in order to help make a difference.
Many people, Native and non Native attend the Rally to participate in the events, we respectfully ask everyone to please remember the plight, to Protect Bear Butte and not endorse, patronize and participate in these venues surrounding Bear Butte. No matter how much you may want to see your favorite bands playing at these Rally venues, please remember these concerts surrounding Bear Butte are violating the sacred mountain! Help us take a stand against these Rally venues that continue to disrespect Bear Butte and its spiritual and historical significance.
We would like to ask each and every one of you, to assist us with the Protect Bear Butte struggle by helping spread the word!
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 many years. Our organization is currently leading the campaign regarding opposing the new developments and further expansions at Bear Butte.
Visit our main website at www.protectsacredsites.org and our dedicated website for the Bear Butte struggle at www.protectbearbutte.com .