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Antiquities Act helps to preserve cultural sites

SUNDANCE, Wyo. ñ It has been 100 years since the federal government passed legislation that would protect sites important to the country and, as a side effect, also protected sites important to Indian country.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gave the U.S. president authority to set aside lands worthy of preservation and lands to be used for scientific research. The first use of the Antiquities Act came at the urging and the stroke of a pen by President Theodore Roosevelt when he declared Devils Tower the nationís first national monument on Sept. 24, 1906.

Devils Tower is a geological phenomenon, and is also recognized by many cultures as a place of not just special interest, but of sacredness. For centuries before any non-Indian ever laid eyes on the tower, it was the subject of some 20 Plains tribesí legends.

Each spring many members of the various tribes camp and pray at what is more commonly known as Bears Lodge to most nations; it is also known as Tree Rock, Home of the Bear and Great Grey Horn.

In the star knowledge stories Bear Lodge carries near-equal sacred significance to the more frequently used site, Bear Butte, located east of the tower.

Roosevelt, who never saw Devils Tower, may have had only preservation of a spectacular site in mind; but the result is the protection of a site that is important to American Indians and non-Indians alike for different reasons.

Recreation may be foremost in some peopleís minds, as the tower is one of the worldís premier locations for rock climbing. That particular use has created some controversy and engendered a lawsuit that ended up in U.S. District Court.

Litigation claiming First Amendment rights and religious freedom led to a National Park Service compromise that asks that rock climbers voluntarily refrain from climbing the tower during the month of June, while people from the many nations are present in prayer.

There is evidence that many people respect the voluntary moratorium, while others go about their business as usual.

Dorothy Firecloud, Rosebud Sioux and Devils Tower National Parkís first American Indian superintendent, said that 85 percent of the climbers respected the moratorium, but recently more climbers have been on the monument in the month of June. An amendment to the monumentís climbing plan will allow for more education in the form of a video that is being developed.

Since Devils Tower is a national monument, the general public has a right to use the tower and the surrounding area.

Devils Tower, while protected by the Antiquities Act and its many amendments, serves a multi-use purpose which brings in some 500,000 visitors annually. Some come to climb; others to take in the magnitude of the monument, learn about and experience the American Indian presence or to pray; and still other people may be there for the sheer beauty of the area.

Most of the American Indian legends surrounding the tower include at least one bear and several youth, and more than one legend points to a constellation of stars that hover over the tower in the winter months ñ known as the Pleiades.

Which story a visitor is treated to depends on who is doing the interpreting. A few years ago, the only story park interpreters used was the scientific explanation of how the tower was formed, with possibly a mention that American Indians considered the tower sacred.

Firecloud said there are plans to set up a tipi and include regalia that will help to interpret the American Indian side of the story. She said more American Indians are coming to the tower from all over the nation to visit and to pray.

Devils Tower may be one of the many laccoliths in the region formed by magma reaching near the Earthís surface, or the neck of a small volcano. The scientific version of the story tells that the tower was exposed after thousands of years of erosion and now stands more than 800 feet above the surface and could cover a football field.

A Kiowa legend tells of seven girls who were chased by bears. The girls ran to a low rock and prayed that the rock would save them. The rock then rose upwards and the bears tried to claw their way to get at the girls. The bears continued to claw at the rock as it grew higher and higher into the sky. The girls are still there, known as the Pleiades.

The Kiowa call the tower ìTso-aa,î a tree rock. The Lakota word for the tower is ìMato Tipila,î or Bear Lodge. In keeping with that name, the mountain range to the north and west of the tower is called the Bear Lodge Mountains.

ìOverall [the act] does what it meant ñ it has protected the tower, the wildlife and the natural plants,î Firecloud said.

The Antiquities Act, as written, was designed to stop the pilfering of artifacts and other objects from potential archaeological sites, more aptly referred to by American Indians as sacred or cultural sites.

The federal government in some way managed to prevent the general public from wholesale digging on such sites as Devils Tower, Canyon de Chase, Mesa Verde, Bandolier and many other sites where prayer sites, burial grounds and other culturally significant sites were discovered.

If any digging was to be done or any artifacts were to be extracted, the act stipulates, the artifacts would be placed in the ownership of the federal government and sent to Eastern museums, specifically the Smithsonian.

Firecloud said that she intends to include the local residents and keep tribes more involved in the future of the monument with art, celebrations and ceremonies.

An annual picnic that included all local communities once took place, but was stopped. This year, the centennial celebration paved the way for the Old Settlers Picnic to be restarted and there are plans to continue the picnic yearly, Firecloud said.

Artists from the American Indian community and Western artists will be invited to come together with monthly art shows, and education classes will be held at the monument on a regular basis for younger students, Firecloud said.

ìI want to get more local tribal people to come here ñ some have never been here ñ and to get the local communities more involved: this tower is so significant,î Firecloud said.

ìPeople think I will favor the tribes, but the locals and tribes have so much in common to protect this monument,î Firecloud said.

SUNDANCE, Wyo. ñ It has been 100 years since the federal government passed legislation that would protect sites important to the country and, as a side effect, also protected sites important to Indian country. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gave the U.S. president authority to set aside lands worthy of preservation and lands to be used for scientific research. The first use of the Antiquities Act came at the urging and the stroke of a pen by President Theodore Roosevelt when he declared Devils Tower the nationís first national monument on Sept. 24, 1906.Devils Tower is a geological phenomenon, and is also recognized by many cultures as a place of not just special interest, but of sacredness. For centuries before any non-Indian ever laid eyes on the tower, it was the subject of some 20 Plains tribesí legends.Each spring many members of the various tribes camp and pray at what is more commonly known as Bears Lodge to most nations; it is also known as Tree Rock, Home of the Bear and Great Grey Horn.In the star knowledge stories Bear Lodge carries near-equal sacred significance to the more frequently used site, Bear Butte, located east of the tower. Roosevelt, who never saw Devils Tower, may have had only preservation of a spectacular site in mind; but the result is the protection of a site that is important to American Indians and non-Indians alike for different reasons.Recreation may be foremost in some peopleís minds, as the tower is one of the worldís premier locations for rock climbing. That particular use has created some controversy and engendered a lawsuit that ended up in U.S. District Court.Litigation claiming First Amendment rights and religious freedom led to a National Park Service compromise that asks that rock climbers voluntarily refrain from climbing the tower during the month of June, while people from the many nations are present in prayer. There is evidence that many people respect the voluntary moratorium, while others go about their business as usual.Dorothy Firecloud, Rosebud Sioux and Devils Tower National Parkís first American Indian superintendent, said that 85 percent of the climbers respected the moratorium, but recently more climbers have been on the monument in the month of June. An amendment to the monumentís climbing plan will allow for more education in the form of a video that is being developed.Since Devils Tower is a national monument, the general public has a right to use the tower and the surrounding area.Devils Tower, while protected by the Antiquities Act and its many amendments, serves a multi-use purpose which brings in some 500,000 visitors annually. Some come to climb; others to take in the magnitude of the monument, learn about and experience the American Indian presence or to pray; and still other people may be there for the sheer beauty of the area.Most of the American Indian legends surrounding the tower include at least one bear and several youth, and more than one legend points to a constellation of stars that hover over the tower in the winter months ñ known as the Pleiades.Which story a visitor is treated to depends on who is doing the interpreting. A few years ago, the only story park interpreters used was the scientific explanation of how the tower was formed, with possibly a mention that American Indians considered the tower sacred.Firecloud said there are plans to set up a tipi and include regalia that will help to interpret the American Indian side of the story. She said more American Indians are coming to the tower from all over the nation to visit and to pray.Devils Tower may be one of the many laccoliths in the region formed by magma reaching near the Earthís surface, or the neck of a small volcano. The scientific version of the story tells that the tower was exposed after thousands of years of erosion and now stands more than 800 feet above the surface and could cover a football field.A Kiowa legend tells of seven girls who were chased by bears. The girls ran to a low rock and prayed that the rock would save them. The rock then rose upwards and the bears tried to claw their way to get at the girls. The bears continued to claw at the rock as it grew higher and higher into the sky. The girls are still there, known as the Pleiades. The Kiowa call the tower ìTso-aa,î a tree rock. The Lakota word for the tower is ìMato Tipila,î or Bear Lodge. In keeping with that name, the mountain range to the north and west of the tower is called the Bear Lodge Mountains.ìOverall [the act] does what it meant ñ it has protected the tower, the wildlife and the natural plants,î Firecloud said.The Antiquities Act, as written, was designed to stop the pilfering of artifacts and other objects from potential archaeological sites, more aptly referred to by American Indians as sacred or cultural sites.The federal government in some way managed to prevent the general public from wholesale digging on such sites as Devils Tower, Canyon de Chase, Mesa Verde, Bandolier and many other sites where prayer sites, burial grounds and other culturally significant sites were discovered.If any digging was to be done or any artifacts were to be extracted, the act stipulates, the artifacts would be placed in the ownership of the federal government and sent to Eastern museums, specifically the Smithsonian.Firecloud said that she intends to include the local residents and keep tribes more involved in the future of the monument with art, celebrations and ceremonies.An annual picnic that included all local communities once took place, but was stopped. This year, the centennial celebration paved the way for the Old Settlers Picnic to be restarted and there are plans to continue the picnic yearly, Firecloud said.Artists from the American Indian community and Western artists will be invited to come together with monthly art shows, and education classes will be held at the monument on a regular basis for younger students, Firecloud said.ìI want to get more local tribal people to come here ñ some have never been here ñ and to get the local communities more involved: this tower is so significant,î Firecloud said.ìPeople think I will favor the tribes, but the locals and tribes have so much in common to protect this monument,î Firecloud said.