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Nations gather to protect sacred site

STURGIS, S.D. ñ Hundreds of people, both American Indian and non-Indian supporters, gathered recently at the Bear Butte to seek guidance and pray for answers to help stop the growth of entertainment venues that cater to bikers by the thousands who drink alcohol in an atmosphere of loud music and louder drag pipes.

Bear Butte is sacred as a location to pray and seek visions; a sacred mountain where more than 30 American Indian nations have considered a place to communicate with the Creator.

On July 4, people from many nations gathered and set up tents, campers and tipis with the intent to stay at the base of the mountain until Aug 4. While there, the leaders expect to work out their strategy to stop the growth of biker bars, campgrounds, entertainment venues and in general bring a halt to the increased activity within the earshot and sight of those who pray on the Mato Paha, the Lakota word for Bear Butte. The Cheyenne call the mountain Noahvose.

Nearly surrounding Bear Butte, located in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota ñ which are also considered sacred ñ are campgrounds that also provide beer and a place to party, concert venues and drag racing parks. Within the shadow of the mountain is The Full Throttle Saloon, which is billed as the worldís largest biker bar.

To the north of Bear Butte, construction is now under way on what may become the worldís largest biker bar, The County Line. Owner Jay Allen, who also owns the Broken Spoke Saloon just to the west of the new campground, boasts that future development will create a 30,000-seat amphitheater for world-class entertainment.

Allen has been undaunted by all attempts on the part of American Indian groups to stop the expansion of campgrounds and bars in the area.

ìThe commission operates like itís about money, not people,î said Bruce Ellison, Rapid City attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of some Meade County residents.

ìIf the court grants the right to vote, it will shut down the beer license for Jay Allen.î

Fighting the commissionís decision in court carries a lot of weight. Thomas Van Norman, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe attorney and tribal member, has filed lawsuits on behalf of the tribe.

ìThey are not accustomed to fighting in court,î he said.

ìWe need to connect people once again with He Sapa [Black Hills]. We need to educate church groups and put pressure on Meade County,î Van Norman said.

He said that people who wish to have the malt beverage and liquor licenses have not been fully truthful in what was said to the commission.

Support is coming from ranchers who reside in Meade County to put a stop to the expansion of biker bars, which cater to the some 600,000 bikers that invade the Black Hills each year for two weeks.

ìPeople in Meade County have a lot of power. People come in and say that now they have the power to hold their leaders accountable.

ìBear Butte will outlast humanity. We didnít pick this mountain; we learned from its energy,î said Rosalie Little Thunder, Lakota and president of the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center.

Chief Oliver Red Cloud, Oglala, said he believed the ancestors are at the mountain. ìThey tell me they are here. Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Gall, they fight for us.î

The elders have fought for the peoplesí rights for many years and are now turning the job over to the younger generations.

ìIt is important to our elders what is happening to our nation. We are of an age where we donít know how long we will be here fighting for our rights,î said Marie Randall, Oglala elder.

Many of the young people said they would take up the mantle and work to retain the culture, language and traditions and that their efforts would start at Bear Butte with the Gathering of Nations.

The Cheyenne revere Bear Butte as the location where the people received their sacred medicine bundle.

Bernard Red Cherries, Cheyenne Chief from the Elk Society, said he was the grandson of Chief Little Wolf who came to Bear Butte on his way home after removal.

ìWe are not as tough as our ancestors were. We have to stand up for our traditional ways.

ìWhen we allow these people any certain degree [or give an inch], they want more,î Red Cherries said.

People will come in and out of camp over the month of July. On its first night, there were 200 people in camp and it is expected that the numbers will grow larger as rally time nears, according to Debra White Plume, one of the organizers of the Gathering of Nations.

ìWe want to keep this place holy,î White Plume said.

Each day those gathered will pray, conduct pipe ceremonies, pray in sweat lodges and work out what they must do to preserve the sacredness of the mountain.

The gathering is being held between the mountain and the campground. Rex Allen Smith, author of the novel ìMoon of Popping Treesî and a supporter of the sacredness of the mountain, said, ìWe are standing between heaven and hell.î

The 66th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will take place Aug. 7 ñ 13. Bikers begin arriving a week before the official rally days and linger for some time after it is officially over.

STURGIS, S.D. ñ Hundreds of people, both American Indian and non-Indian supporters, gathered recently at the Bear Butte to seek guidance and pray for answers to help stop the growth of entertainment venues that cater to bikers by the thousands who drink alcohol in an atmosphere of loud music and louder drag pipes.Bear Butte is sacred as a location to pray and seek visions; a sacred mountain where more than 30 American Indian nations have considered a place to communicate with the Creator.On July 4, people from many nations gathered and set up tents, campers and tipis with the intent to stay at the base of the mountain until Aug 4. While there, the leaders expect to work out their strategy to stop the growth of biker bars, campgrounds, entertainment venues and in general bring a halt to the increased activity within the earshot and sight of those who pray on the Mato Paha, the Lakota word for Bear Butte. The Cheyenne call the mountain Noahvose.Nearly surrounding Bear Butte, located in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota ñ which are also considered sacred ñ are campgrounds that also provide beer and a place to party, concert venues and drag racing parks. Within the shadow of the mountain is The Full Throttle Saloon, which is billed as the worldís largest biker bar.To the north of Bear Butte, construction is now under way on what may become the worldís largest biker bar, The County Line. Owner Jay Allen, who also owns the Broken Spoke Saloon just to the west of the new campground, boasts that future development will create a 30,000-seat amphitheater for world-class entertainment.Allen has been undaunted by all attempts on the part of American Indian groups to stop the expansion of campgrounds and bars in the area.ìThe commission operates like itís about money, not people,î said Bruce Ellison, Rapid City attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of some Meade County residents.ìIf the court grants the right to vote, it will shut down the beer license for Jay Allen.îFighting the commissionís decision in court carries a lot of weight. Thomas Van Norman, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe attorney and tribal member, has filed lawsuits on behalf of the tribe.ìThey are not accustomed to fighting in court,î he said.ìWe need to connect people once again with He Sapa [Black Hills]. We need to educate church groups and put pressure on Meade County,î Van Norman said.He said that people who wish to have the malt beverage and liquor licenses have not been fully truthful in what was said to the commission.Support is coming from ranchers who reside in Meade County to put a stop to the expansion of biker bars, which cater to the some 600,000 bikers that invade the Black Hills each year for two weeks.ìPeople in Meade County have a lot of power. People come in and say that now they have the power to hold their leaders accountable.ìBear Butte will outlast humanity. We didnít pick this mountain; we learned from its energy,î said Rosalie Little Thunder, Lakota and president of the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center.Chief Oliver Red Cloud, Oglala, said he believed the ancestors are at the mountain. ìThey tell me they are here. Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Gall, they fight for us.îThe elders have fought for the peoplesí rights for many years and are now turning the job over to the younger generations.ìIt is important to our elders what is happening to our nation. We are of an age where we donít know how long we will be here fighting for our rights,î said Marie Randall, Oglala elder.Many of the young people said they would take up the mantle and work to retain the culture, language and traditions and that their efforts would start at Bear Butte with the Gathering of Nations.The Cheyenne revere Bear Butte as the location where the people received their sacred medicine bundle.Bernard Red Cherries, Cheyenne Chief from the Elk Society, said he was the grandson of Chief Little Wolf who came to Bear Butte on his way home after removal. ìWe are not as tough as our ancestors were. We have to stand up for our traditional ways. ìWhen we allow these people any certain degree [or give an inch], they want more,î Red Cherries said.People will come in and out of camp over the month of July. On its first night, there were 200 people in camp and it is expected that the numbers will grow larger as rally time nears, according to Debra White Plume, one of the organizers of the Gathering of Nations.ìWe want to keep this place holy,î White Plume said.Each day those gathered will pray, conduct pipe ceremonies, pray in sweat lodges and work out what they must do to preserve the sacredness of the mountain.The gathering is being held between the mountain and the campground. Rex Allen Smith, author of the novel ìMoon of Popping Treesî and a supporter of the sacredness of the mountain, said, ìWe are standing between heaven and hell.îThe 66th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will take place Aug. 7 ñ 13. Bikers begin arriving a week before the official rally days and linger for some time after it is officially over.