Separated by about eight miles of prairie from the greater Black Hills and lying a few miles from the small town of Sturgis, is one of the most sacred mountains to the Plains Indians from the United States and Canada.
As we approached Bear Butte in the state park bearing its name, we stopped along the highway to capture several photos of the effects of the interplay of the sun and the clouds' shadows on the landscape. Once again, the partly cloudy day resulted in a far more interesting scene than that produced by a sunny day.
More than 4,000 years ago, a Cheyenne man named Sweet Medicine received the knowledge from which the Cheyenne derive their religious, political, social, and economic customs. At one time, up to 60 different tribes traveled to Bear Butte to fast and pray, and people from all over the world came to Bear Butte to pray, to meditate, to try to experience some of the spiritual connection that has been there from the beginning of time.
Geologists, on the other hand, call the 4,426-foot mountain a lacolith, or a bubble of magma that did not become a complete volcano. They say this happened millions of years ago.
Non-Indian archeologists estimate that Native people have been present in the Black Hills for 11,000 years. The origin stories of the Lakota people tell of the time of the arrival of the Sioux people on the face of Mother Earth through another sacred place, now called Wind Cave. Lakota people also have stories of when dinosaurs, called giant lizards, roamed the earth, of when tiny horses were here, and of when cats with huge teeth stalked buffalo. These stories date back much farther than 11,000 years.
Photos #3, 4, 5, and 6 show scenes, looking to the south (#3) and panning to the west (#6).
Bear Butte, the mountain proper, became a state park in 1961 and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
We walked around the Visitors' Center, taking a few photos of these flowers and plants.
As we were leaving the park, we came upon several buffaloes and a few calves. For the most part, the buffaloes ignored us as we shared the roadway.
However, there were moments when we thought better of stopping. So we kept moving--at a very slow pace, but moving nonetheless.
Later, we learned that the National Trust for Historical Preserva-tion has listed Bear Butte State Park as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Despite its cultural and religious significance, this National Historic Landmark is threatened by proposed energy development--a 960-acre oil field adjacent to Bear Butte and a wind power installation is currently under consideration roughly five miles away from the mountain. The Trust is concerned about any negative impact on the sacred site that would further degrade the cultural landscape.
The serenity of this sacred place on the prairie is too important to disrupt.