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Friday, April 07, 2006

Bear Butte update from Carter Camp

This was received via email and is reprinted in its entirety

Bear Butte update-Carter Camp
Ah-ho My Relations,

Many things have happened since I sent out the last update from the "Intertribal Coalition to Defend Bear Butte" but one thing has overshadowed everything else. Jay Allen HAS BEGUN CONSTRUCTION on the huge, 600 acre, "biker bar/concert venue" only a few hundred yards north of the Sacred Mountain!! We have posted some of the pictures on our web site www.defendbearbutte.org but I warn you they're ugly. He began the construction well before the county granted him the license to sell booze so both he and we knew how the vote would go.

Last Tuesday over a thousand Indian people gathered to pray on Bear Butte and march to the Meade County Courthouse to show the County just how serious a step they were taking when they vote to approve the liquor license for Jay Allen. We were led by Treaty Council Chiefs Oliver Red Cloud and Floyd Hand and many other traditional Chiefs and Headsmen. The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council came to stand with us, as did Councilmembers from Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Lower Brule. A group of Akicita, Eagle Staff Carriers, were followed by a group of veterans in camo dress carrying the American Flag and the black MIA flag alongside the Tribal flags. Walking in front of us all in pride and dignity was the 19th generation, "Keeper of the Sacred Pipe Bundle", Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

As is always the case as the morning dawned on Tuesday those of us who organized the protest wondered how many people would take time from their weekday schedule and travel from the reservation homelands to stand with us for the sacred mountain. At first the parking lot held a few knots of people standing around talking and shaking hands greeting each other. Then as the ten o'clock starting time came closer more and more cars began to arrive and the lot began to fill. A school bus from Takini pulled in and the energy all around rose. Then up the road came our invited escort of bikers on their big Harleys who had ridden in from Denver. Veterans in their fatigues began to assemble and a speaker system was mounted on Tom Cook's flatbed truck and the drum placed in the middle. Six or eight young men jumped up on the truck to sing an opening prayer song before our honored Sicangu Elder, Lorraine Iron Shell Walking Bull, an honored woman who has been steadfast in her work to defend Bear Butte, offered a prayer to the Mountain for all of us.

After the opening prayers I was called upon to explain the recent history of our struggle and how the gathering was organized. As I looked around I was struck by the singular honor that I was being given to speak at such a historic gathering of Indian people. Our people gathered in a large circle as the prayers began so I was able to look into the crowd and recognize strong traditional leaders and Sundance Chiefs like Rick Two Dogs, Wilmer Mesteth, Keith Horse Looking, Russell Eagle Bear and others. (I shouldn't have begun mentioning names because so many were there that my poor memory will fail to mention some notable people like Rocky Afraid of Hawk and his wife Pam who are founding members of the Coalition.) I say these things to tell you how truly awe inspiring the gathering was to me as I stood facing Mato Paha and a thousand brave Indian people who were determined to save our mountain that day.

It's hard for me to describe the many inspiring talks were given in front of the mountain that morning. Organizers like Debra White Plume of our Coalition and Owe Aku, Anne White Hat of the BBIA and Sicangu Way of Life spoke for all of us who have spent the past year getting ready for this struggle. Alex White Plume, Vice Chair of the Oglala Lakota Nation spoke of his nations determination to defend the entire Black Hills and the Oglala's willingness to take a stand for Bear Butte. The Thunderhawk drum then sang a special strongheart song for Crazy Horse that Chief Floyd Hand requested before he told the people to stand strong no matter how hard it gets. He told us the entire Teton Nations Treaty Council was behind us and that if we stay together we can win. Then Chief Red Cloud spoke to us about how his Grandfather had fought for the Black Hills and drove the whiteman out of them. He said Mato Paha still belongs to our people and that we must fight for her in the name of our future generations. Then Chief Looking Horse came forward to offer a wonderful prayer to and for Bear Butte and all the red nations. With that the hearts of the people soared and we happily began to get into cars for the caravan to Sturgis.

The caravan was led from Bear Butte by our biker allies, followed by a van with our own security men and the flatbed truck with the drum and singers. Following them was a long caravan of cars, pickups, school bus and tribal Elders vans. It was well over a hundred cars and from where I was we could barely hear the drum and singers as we slowly drove into Sturgis. Once in Sturgis we dismounted in the park to march the final eight or ten blocks into town. Now the truck with the drummers went first, then Chief Arvol striding alone in his Headress and Chief's shirt. Behind him were the Eagle Staff Carriers, including me with the Coalition Staff, behind us the veterans marched with the American, Tribal and MIA flags. Then a thousand beautiful people came, the young ones chanting "Save Bear Butte!" "Save Bear Butte!" all the way through town.

The route the local cops had planned out for us went down a small side street and only came on the main thoroughfare the final block or so. However my son Poj Camp was in charge of security and he had mapped out a different route:), at the right corner he turned the lead truck left so now the march was going past the Broken Spoke Saloon and turning right down the main drag! At first I could see every cop grab their mics and report what had happened, the lead cops were already going down the sidestreet alone while the Indians were marching right past the B.S.Saloon! Then we turned down the main street and spread out across the entire street instead of one way, I loved it as now we could then march where all of Sturgis had to see us.

As we reached our destination the drum began the AIM song and all the women sang in chorus, Chief Looking Horse began to dance and all the Staff Carriers and Flag carriers danced behind him to the steps of the community building where we were to gather. It was a powerful march and as we made our way into the building I could feel the energy and power of my people, all with one mind and united in purpose.

After a meal we once again assembled to march the final three blocks up the hill to the courtroom where the hearing would be held. The only difference in the march order was we were led by a Cheyenne River police car manned by two young Lakota policemen who were also sundancers and traditional men. As we began the drums sang warrior songs for us and the women trilled their encouragement to be strong when facing an enemy. Once again Arvol led us up to the courthouse door and we gathered in a large circle around him, dancing with our staffs until the songs were finished then whooping in defiance to let the wasicu know we had arrived.

In a way the following hearing was a farce and at the same time a wonderful thing. It was a farce because the outcome was a foregone conclusion. It was wonderful because so many leaders of our people were able to tell the world, on the record, about our Sacred Mountain and what she means to our Nations. Our rally filled the street outside while seventy of our people were able to fit into the crowded auditorium inside. Elders, Chiefs and Tribal leaders explained for over an hour the history of Bear Butte, her place in our beliefs and ceremonies and how the noisy, drunken biker bar would forever destroy the sanctity of the sacred places upon her. Tribe after Tribe, leader after leader gave testimony, we told them how bad the location was for a beer bar and just what the mountain meant to our various Nations. We told them of ten thousand years of peaceful worship that has taken place on Bear Butte and how the spirits and medicine on the mountain would be threatened by the noise and filth of Jay Allen's proposal. It was wonderful to hear.

On behalf of the bar a lawyer spoke briefly, a town racist spoke, a bar maid testified that Allen was a good boss and Allen testified that he respected Indians. Based on everything they had heard that day the Meade County Commissioners then voted unanimously to give Jay Allen a liquor license. Not one commissioner had ears.

Adding to this alarming development is the fact that the Meade County Commissioners have renewed all the liquor licenses for the other booze and concert venues surrounding Bear Butte. Plus the State legislature refused to even hear the bill introduced by Indian legislators to establish a buffer zone around Bear Butte.

Even though we expected these bad developments they are none the less disappointing and show us all that Indian people will not be heard in the normal channels of political discourse in South Dakota. These actions only serve to make it even more vital that the people gather at the time of the "Sturgis Bike Rally" to show America that if they destroy this sacred place, they also destroy we Indians as a people. We must gather to show them that the destruction of our sacred mountain is an act of genocide against the indigenous people of this land just as the destruction of the buffalo was to our Grandparents.

If you care to help us please visit our web site www.defendbearbutte.org and sign up for the long hot summer that faces our people. We had one thousand Tuesday, this summer we need ten times that many, I hope you will be one of us.
Carter Camp, Inter-Tribal Coalition to Defend Bear Butte

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