Monday, July 24, 2006


The "Resolution of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council Opposing Any Development On or Near Mata Paha 'BearButte'" reads:
Whereas, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has adopted its Constitution and By-Laws by referendum vote on December 14, 1935, in accordance with Section 16 of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and Article IV of the Constitution, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council is the governing body of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and

Whereas, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is empowered through the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act to represent the membership of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which includes the future generations of the people who are unborn, and

Whereas, our ancestors were free, sovereign, natural people who in their daily lives strived to live in a respectful way an observance of our natural laws as brought to us by Pte San Win, sent to us in a time of need by Tunkasila to show our people how to live in a good way, and

Whereas, these sacred teachings have been handed down from generation to generation. Throughout the decades of making war with the United States of America our ancestors fought the 7th Calvary and eventually we took their flag at the Greasy Grass, known to history as the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Since that time, although thousands of our people have entered the U.S. Armed Forces to fight for this beautiful land, as Lakota Oyate we still must fight the U.S. government and their entities for our way of life which includes the freedom to live our spiritual ways. Throughout the early reservation days, many of our brave, humble, visionary people lived these ways of live at the risk of imprisonment, and so taught our people how to live a spiritual way according to the teachings of Pte San Win. When our ancestors entered the reservation to live under the War Department of the United States, the Lakota Oyate came with two items. One, the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. The other, a star map. This star map teaches our Nation how to live a Spiritual Way of Life here on Earth, mirroring that which occurs in the Star Nation, and

Whereas, on this Star Map are geographic locations which are Sacred to the Lakota Nation, and which mirror the Stars in the Sky. Each geographical location corresponds exactly with a Star Constellation. When the Stars are in a certain place in the Sky, we here on Earth must be in the corresponding location on Earth in order to conduct the sacred ceremony on Earth that is being conducted in the Sky within the Star constellation, and

Whereas, among these sacred places on Earth is a place we call Mato Paha, or Bear Butte in the English language. As the Star Nation moved through the Sky, we moved through our sacred places throughout the He Sapa. As we our people moved through the oldest mountains on Earth, we gathered food, game, and medicine to take us through the Autumn and early months of Winter. As we moved through the Sacred He Sapa, our Autumn destination was Mato Paha. We gathered (and gather today) there at Mato Paha. As we camped there, Mato Paha became known as Pte Pute Ya for about one months’ time, when we departed, the Sacred Mountain again became Mato Paha. As the Stars in the Sky moved through the Universe, the sacred time of the He Sapa reflecting the sacred cycle of the Star Nation had come full circle, and we again dispersed to our Winter Camps to begin the journey anew. While our people were at Pte Pute Ya, decision making councils were conducted to decide important business of the Tiospaye, Bands, and Oceti Sakowin. In today’s language, we did strategic and long range planning while camped at this Sacred Mountain, and

Whereas, our leaders of those not-so-long-ago-days were careful to include these sacred places in the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties with the United States government. It is still our responsibility to take care of these sacred places, these places are still in our Treaty Territory, and

Whereas, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council stands opposed to the development of any of these sacred places. At the current time, Bear Butte is being considered as a place to build a commercial enterprise, known as the “Sacred Grounds”. It will be a campground, concert venue, and biker bar built by Jay Allen to open in 2006. Allen also plans to build additional smaller bars near Bear Butte, as well as a tipi village and an 80-foot tall statue of an American Indian.

Therefore be it resolved, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council does hereby direct the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to immediately notify all appropriate city, county, state, and federal officials of its opposition to any development of our Sacred Mountain; to immediately develop and implement a strategic plan to continue such opposition as needed in the future regarding the Sacred Mountain of Mato Paha (Bear Butte) and all other sacred places to the Lakota Oyate; and to immediately communicate this threat to our sacred way of life to the other tribal governments which also hold sacred these location’s and to develop and implement a collaborative relationship with such tribes to stand opposed to any desecration of our sacred places, and

Be it further resolved, The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council directs the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to initiate work immediately that will result in the creation of a reasonable buffer zone around all sacred places in our Treaty Territory to protect the dignity of these locations as our place of worship similar to how there are American laws in place that protect churches, synagogs, schools, hospitals, etc. Such buffer zones will include a prohibition of further development, the approval of liquor licenses, any form of pornography, violence, environmental pollution, and a noise level which is unacceptable to sacred places and other actions to be determined, and to consider such buffer zone consideration as an environmental preservation area, and

Be it further resolved, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council directs the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to report monthly to the tribal council, district councils, and other appropriate entities regarding the status of such activity.

The following comes from The Nation.

Biker Mecca on Sacred Ground

Sturgis, South Dakota, is a town of about 6,500 people, but come August the population explodes, as half a million bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts ride in like cowboys, clad in leather vests and bandannas for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This year's event, however, promises to be met with resistance from the area's original inhabitants and other First Nation peoples from across the continent. They are protesting not only the onslaught of bikers but also a development at the base of a sacred hill outside of Sturgis called Bear Butte.

"I have a hard time in the white man's way. They pray to this guy called God, but he's gold. It's all about the almighty dollar. Their priorities are money," said Alexander White Plume in a phone interview from his home in Manderson, South Dakota. White Plume is acting president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and he, along with hundreds of others, organized protests and spoke at recent public hearings over whether or not a liquor license should be given to Arizona businessman Jay Allen, who plans to build a 600-acre biker extravaganza adjacent to Bear Butte.

Allen operates an interstate chain of four biker bars called Broken Spoke Saloon, including one in Sturgis, which bills itself as the largest biker bar in the world.

Meade County Commissioners voted unanimously in April to grant a beer and malt beverage license to Allen for this new saloon in his chain, and then voted in June to allow transfer of a liquor license to the venue.

The original name of Allen's project was Sacred Grounds, and until Lakota and other nations raised objections, Allen intended to erect on the site an eighty-foot-high statue of a Native person praying. From Allen's perspective, he has treated the indigenous population fairly, noting through a spokeswoman that local tribes had passed up two opportunities to purchase the land he ultimately acquired.

At issue on both sides of this argument over the proposed development is more than expropriation of the intellectual property of indigenous peoples. It is a reminder of the vast cultural differences that exist between First Nation peoples and those who are drawn to what once was their tribal land.

One only needs to read Article 1 of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and compare it with what has happened over time to understand the profound conflict between the two competing paradigms: "From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall forever cease. The Government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace, and they now pledge their honor to maintain it."

Enacted by Congress, the treaty codified the Sioux Nations' ownership of the Black Hills. But the treaty's opening words, "From this day forward," really only meant for the next six years, because in 1874 General George Custer and some nineteenth-century entrepreneurs, known back then as miners, breached the treaty and found gold in the Black Hills, reigniting what are called the Indian wars. Eventually those events led to white settlers hunting down Natives and either forcing them onto reservations or, as happened at Wounded Knee, disarming them and then murdering them.

Despite the dispossession of Native people and erosion of their sovereignty, the Lakota, Arapahoe and Cheyenne still go to Bear Butte to practice their religious ways. Scores of other nations have maintained connections to the butte since ancient times, making the journey there to pray much the way Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Lakota and other First Nations people aren't the only ones opposed to Allen's plans to develop Bear Butte as a haven for bikers. Some white ranchers and business owners say the Sturgis biker rally has gotten out of hand and have joined coalitions such as the Bear Butte International Alliance, which are planning to conduct civil disobedience training. Meade County, where Sturgis is located, boasts a population of only 25,000, but every year locals brace themselves for Rally Week because as many as 650,000 bikers have poured into Sturgis and the surrounding area.

Opponents of the Bear Butte development are expecting as many as 10,000 people to stand with them in solidarity to protest this intrusion on their land. When asked whether or not he believes there will be clashes between protesters and bikers, Alexander White Plume said, "We can't defend Bear Butte violently because it is a sacred site. But our younger generation is talking about direct action."

Meanwhile, Allen's development is taking shape. He has announced plans to include a rodeo arena on the site by 2008, and he has said that although he respects the Native people, he has the right to conduct business. The state of South Dakota agrees with him, because none of the legal or moral objections put forth have held sway with legislators who earlier this year rejected legislation to create a four-mile buffer around Bear Butte. Hundreds of First Nation peoples traveled more than 200 miles to attend hearings and testify against granting the liquor license. But Bob Mallow, one of the five Meade County Commissioners who voted in favor of Allen's request, said in a phone interview that none of the area's residents spoke out against it.

"If there's nothing there, we're talking about two and a half miles from Bear Butte," said Mallow. "The location is fine with us. It's a municipality. If you have a church down the street two blocks, that makes sense, but this distance seems like enough."

Allen, who has traveled to Sturgis annually since 1986, said he visits the butte every day during the rally and added that he wants to share the "magic of our precious 600 acres with not just the Native Americans but with anyone open to experiencing something greater than the common rally experiences."

Even though county and state lawmakers have green-lighted the project, the First Nations peoples are undaunted in their quest to protect this religious site. Bear Butte is one of the last remaining undeveloped sacred sites in the United States.

"We want to keep it that way," said White Plume. "Leave it in its original form. It's where we go to do our vision quest. We do ceremonies that need silence. Putting a bar and concert hall there would be like us holding a powwow outside a synagogue when they're praying."

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