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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bear Butte: Sacred Ground 

From: Carter Camp [mailto:cartercamp@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 11:29 PM
To: Sovereign Nations
Subject: Protect Bear Butte!

It has taken me several days to get over some of the outrage and shock I felt when I read the letter from a Sturgis bar owner saying he planned to open a giant, biker bar and "Buffalo Chip" style entertainment venue beside our sacred mountain Bear Butte. Now my outrage has turned to anger and a determination to do something to fight this desecration.

Often native people in this state need to educate their white neighbors when they offend or insult us without malicious intent to do so. We recognize that it is hard for some people to understand that in our beliefs "places" can be sacred and not to be defiled or that Bear Butte is foremost amongst them.

But this is not so with the developer in question, as a local man he knows very well that Indian people from around the country pilgrimage to pray at Bear Butte yearly. Over thirty of our Nations hold Bear Butte sacred and inviolate. By choosing the name "Sacred Ground" for his planned scene of noise and debauchery, Mr. Allen has personally slapped the face of every warrior of every Nation that holds Bear Butte sacred. I am sure there will be a response. I wonder if Mr. Allen knows how many Tribes have purchased property near the sacred mountain and will be his neighbors. Indians have bought land and pay taxes on it without fanfare just to have a quiet place and access to the sacred places.

Some have said in your newspaper that building and noise around the sacred mountain is "inevitable". I beg to differ, it may be rare but I believe sometimes the will of a minority will be heard in America and greed can be subverted. It may be that cooler heads and patient explanations by traditional Indian people can persuade him to withdraw the proposal. I hope so because if they can not it is my considered opinion that Mr. Allen and the State of South Dakota will witness the largest clash of cultures since 1973.

There are many places in America where sacred and/or historical places are preserved by a green zone or buffer zone against unwanted developments interfering with the nature of the place or experience. Only greed can deny Bear Butte the same respect and care. It is long past time that all further development be put on hold until the preservation of all aspects of maintaining Bear Butte can be considered (including tolerable noise and traffic levels) to preserve what is left of a sacred environment.

I call on the State and County to close Highway 79 between SD Hwys 34 and 212 during the Sturgis Bike Rally and that alternate routes be found or constructed. I further call on the State to limit public access to the mountain during June so ceremonies can take place on the sacred mountain.

Over the last few years a grassroots organization called the "Defenders of the Black Hills" led the struggle to stop the illegal placement of an unacceptably noisy shooting range a few miles from the sacred mountain.

Although I cannot speak for them, as a founding member I intend to ask that stopping this development be placed very high on our agenda at the next meeting. It may take lawsuits, or national boycotts of "Broken Spoke Saloons", it may take protests and letter writing, it may once more take much sacrifice on the part of our people but it is a struggle we must take on if we are to survive as whole people and Nations.

The good thing out of this bad news is that Mr. Allen's plan has offended every Indian person in South Dakota and the entire Great Plains area. We must unite as never before to crush this proposal and stop any future attacks on our real "Sacred Grounds", our beloved mountain. In this fight, Teton Lakota and Cheyenne warriors can struggle alongside Crow, Shoshoni and Mandan, Blackfoot, Ojibway and Arikara. Ponca like me can join with Pawnee, Otoe, Kaw, Osage, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe who journey here from exile in Oklahoma to maintain our ties to the sacred mountain. We must call on our Tribal Governments for support and the whole world for assistance in this effort. We must enlist the many resources of Indian Country to beat back this obscene development proposal and enact protective laws to protect her. On this we must stake our sashes to the ground. On this we cannot fail!

Carter Camp, Ponca Nation

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