A proposed bypass road near Mato Paha is the subject of contention to those who hold the mountain sacred.
Bear Butte, rich in history and religious significance to dozens of tribes, is administered as a state park and is under consideration for federal protection, due in part to its continued importance as a place of worship and celebration of Native American ceremonies. The Prairie Hills Audubon Society Chapter is among detractors of the proposed by-pass road. “It will bring more development and traffic to the area east of Sturgis, near the junction of highways 79 and 34, near where Bear Butte and Bear Butte Lake are located,” said chapter President Nancy Hilding. The butte is not fully held in state, tribal or federal trust, so private properties here could be developed to the detriment of the traditional cultural use of the area, she said. [Talli Nauman, Native Sun News]Nauman reported on a previous Meade County commission meeting. Here is an excerpt from her piece at Native Sun News via indianz.com:
At a June 8 hearing on the matter, commissioners stopped short of approving a lawsuit. Instead, they voted unanimously to send a letter to state regulators, disputing the decision to hold oil drilling to five wells, instead of 24 initially permitted near the prayer site sacred to dozens of Native American tribes. The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment decided on May 18 to reduce Nakota Energy LLC’s 2010 permit for oil drilling in the sacred butte area from 24 to five initial wells, after three public comment periods revealed substantial opposition on religious grounds. “People are tired of coming in here. A lot of people don’t want to talk anymore,” United Urban Warrior Society organizer James Swan testified to county commissioners at their most recent meeting. “They just want to take over the mountain.” Mato Paha, as the mountain is called in Lakota, was noted and reserved as a traditional council site in the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties with the U.S. government.
A 1986 amendment to federal law allows tribes to acquire off-reservation land to serve the needs of its peoples. A recent court case upheld these tribal rights. The Arizona Republic explains:
Luis Plascencia, an assistant professor at Arizona State University, questioned the states-rights argument. "When states joined the union, they agreed to be a state, political entities authorized by the federal government," Plascencia said. "States are given power but it doesn't make them independent of the United States of America the same way cities are not independent.Arizona Republicans have continued to block tribal efforts to build a casino on off-reservation land.
The Northern Cheyenne, a Montana tribe, is just one tribal nation that owns land near Bear Butte in western South Dakota considered "non-contiguous" reservation land.
April 20 is the deadline for thousands of owners of fractional interests on tribal lands to accept land buyback offers from the feds.
It's time for the State of South Dakota to abandon this land it claimed through colonization and remand it to the tribes for governance.