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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Bear Butte is sacred

From the LA Times.
Beer, broads, bikers -- and the Great Spirit
By Peter Nabokov, Peter Nabokov teaches at UCLA and is the author of "Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places."
March 26, 2006

JUST EAST OF THE hogback ridge that encircles the Black Hills of South Dakota rises the irregular profile of Bear Butte, a 4,426-foot-high cross between a hill and a mountain. Geologists call it a laccolith, a volcanic bulge that never erupted, as if still storing its power within.

To a handful of Plains Indian tribes, Bear Butte remains the preeminent sacred place on their continent. On all sides, the approach to this counterpart of Mt. Sinai or Mt. Athos is mantled with waves of prairie grass, allowing arriving pilgrims or vision-seekers to take in the promontory's stillness, quietude and power by degrees.

But the construction of a 30,000-seat-capacity rock-concert amphitheater, a 22,000-square-foot biker bar and a 150,000-square-foot asphalt parking lot adjacent to the butte threatens the place's ability to provide peace and refuge. Every summer, an estimated 500,000 growling Harleys invade the nearby town of Sturgis, destroying the butte's zone of spiritual restoration. However, that August orgy of mandatory machismo, nonstop boozing and wild-girl breast-baring lasts for only two weeks. The mammoth entertainment venue under construction, for which bulldozers are scraping up turf, will bring roaring choppers, blasting music and carousing drinkers year-round.

Next week, the Meade County Commission will hear debate on the venue's liquor license application. An overflow crowd of American Indians is expected to attend. For them, Bear Butte's history is ancient and hallowed. Into the butte's bowels, says Cheyenne Indian mythology, once ventured a man and a woman who were charged with saving their tribe from starvation. Within its cavern-like interior, they received the great Massaum ceremony, with its gift of providing game animals to feed the people. For Lakota Indians, Bear Butte is their ultimate altar, where their Great Spirit placed all seven sacred elements and made it the optimal location for smoking the sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, a rite that holds the secret "to the past, present and future of the Lakota people." complete article


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