Bear Butte

The Bear Butte Prayer Gathering will be held from August 1st – 12th on 120 acres of Federal Trust Land managed by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.  The land is located on the southwest side of the mountain, just north of the Bear Butte State Park entrance. 

After several meetings between a group of organizers from across South Dakota and the Northern Cheyenne tribe, a concerted effort is in progress to make this prayer camp a reality for all tribes who have paid homage to this mountain for centuries past and for those whose spirituality has brought them to this sacred site only recently. 

Special focus of prayer activities are for servicemen men and women, and nations impacted by armed conflict and hunger, as well as for the protection of the mountain and effects of global warming.

A brief history of the Bear Butte issue includes the encroachment of bars and campgrounds onto sacred lands.  “Recently, there has been a push by big businesses and individuals who reap economic gain at astronomical levels during the annual Sturgis Bike Rally to use the sacred site of the northern plains tribes to boost their income by exploiting its beauty and sacredness in return for greenbacks.  It has become evident that federal laws passed to protect sacred sites for indigenous peoples in this country have no meaning.  Money, it seems, is considered more powerful and more important than the creation, the land and its natural people are suffering in its wake,” stated Anne White Hat, member of the Bear Butte Prayer Gathering Working Committee and the Bear Butte International Alliance.

“Many attempts to seek justice and compromise by the tribes with the local Meade County Commissioners have seemed to substantiate this over and over again,” indicated Jay Red Hawk, member of the Working Committee and the Bear Butte International Alliance.  Tribal representatives indicated they have been dismissed, ignored, and treated with disrespect in their attempt to stop encroachment onto sacred lands as the commission continues to grant big business and individuals access to these areas of land for inflated land prices.  “Prices that many tribes or individuals cannot afford, not to mention the blatant treaty violations that continue play a role in any land transactions in the Black Hills as a whole,” furthered Red Hawk.

The most recent development just 1 mile of the north face of Bear Butte is owned by Arizona-based developer Jay Allen who has boasted his intention of building the largest biker bar in the world covering over 600 acres.  Tribes have pushed for a 4 mile buffer zone around the sacred mountain to protect the land and those tribal people who may be praying on the mountain during the time of year that the bike rally takes place.  Just days after the 2005 Sturgis motorcycle rally several tribal members met with Jay Allen to discuss concerns about the potential impact of his development, the Sturgis County Line.  “When Allen was informed about the sacrifices made annually by tribal people at Bear Butte, his response was simply, ‘They should know better than to pray up there during the rally, how naive,’” reported the Bear Butte International Alliance.  Since that statement, Allen has been able to complete construction of a bar with a parking lot to hold over 100 bikes and cars, both of which are within 3 miles of the sacred mountain. 

Smaller scale setups have come to exist even closer, the Free Spirit Campground is actually at the base of the north face and even up the side and houses a small bar to host bands and strippers.  Sacred tobacco ties left on the mountain by native people can be seen around the tents that campers set up to stay at the Free Spirit Campground.  A fifteen minute helicopter ride is made available during the rally so bikers and tourists can fly around the top of the sacred mountain for $85 dollars per flight.  “Many tribal people who pray on the mountain at this time are disrupted constantly and must endure the constant noise of rock bands and the drone of bikes twenty four hours a day,” reported Red Hawk.

Currently tribes are organizing to continue the struggle for recognition of religious freedom and protection of Bear Butte mountain as a sacred site.  Many tribes hold a vast history of homage to this sacred mountain through spiritual covenants and creation history.  Tribal affiliation with Bear Butte dates back thousands of years and various tribes each have their significant tribal name for this mountain that represents their own history.  “Within this history is the instruction to pay homage during a particular time of the year when all of creation is in attention and human beings make sacrifices for continued life on this earth.  This time of year has been dictated for thousands and thousands of years while the Sturgis Bike Rally is a miniscule 67 years old.  Who is being naive here?” said camp organizer Marcella Gilbert.

“Fortunately by creation human nature holds compassion and truth in light even in the most challenging of times and the biker culture has proven that these values can be powerful,” remarked Gilbert.  Bikers locally and nationally have offered support to this issue in many ways, one of which was by the Southern Cruisers who hosted a rally near New Orleans recently to support the efforts of protecting this sacred site from encroachment.  Many bike rally attendees are in support of allowing native people to have their space to pray, and have offered to stay away from highway 79 during the rally.  Simple gestures build big success and community.  “A big thank you goes out to those bike rally participants who support the Bear Butte issue with simple gestures, including deciding not to ride near Bear Butte,” said Gilbert. 

The Bear Butte Prayer Gathering is a spiritual encampment scheduled for August 1-12, 2007.  The first 4 days will encompass setting up camp logistics, which will involve a lot of work.  Anyone who wants to assist in this working process is welcome during those first 4 days of August.  August 5-11th the camp will focus on prayer and August 12th will be the day we break camp.  Tribes are encouraged to attend and all other people who believe in prayer and protection of the earth are welcome.  Please be as self sufficient as possible as there are limited resources for showers and toilets.  Open fires will not be allowed, bring coleman or solar stoves or something similar that is controllable for cooking needs. 

The camp will be set up in traditional camp circles and follow strict traditional protocol and natural law.  Videotaping, loudspeakers, alcohol, drugs, violence, weapons, confrontation, cultural or spiritual exploitation will not be tolerated.  Persons or groups who can not follow traditional protocol will be asked to leave the premises.  This is not a protest camp. 

Media communication will be filtered through the Bear Butte working committee who will have designated spokespersons who will speak on behalf of the encampment.  Please be aware that the weather will most likely be very hot.  Remember to have plenty of water available and be able to find some place cool if need be. 

Children are welcome however please be aware that the open range buffalo pasture is very close to the camp site therefore keeping a close eye on your children is a must. 

The Bear Butte working committee is working hard to attain resources to provide a first aid station in cases of emergencies and minimal comforts for the elderly if possible.  For a detailed list of needs, please visit our website at go to the “How you can help section” for our latest needs list. 

You can also now make your donations via Pal Pal, by visiting our website and clicking on the Contribution Link. Many needs remain to be met and your tax-deductible contributions and donations can be sent to the
Bear Butte International Alliance,
PO Box 4232,
Sturgis, SD 57785. 

Logistics and Preparation
August 1 – 12, 2007

After several meetings between organizers from across South Dakota and the Northern Cheyenne tribe, a concerted effort is in progress to make this prayer camp a reality for all tribes who have paid homage to this mountain for centuries past and for those whose spirituality has brought them to this sacred site only recently. At this time we are calling on those who wish to participate and those who wish to support this gathering to assist us with preparation.

The schedule for the week is as follows:

August 1st – 4th Prepare the Camp – Blessing of the Grounds Those who wish to assist in preparing the campgrounds and setting up the camp are urged to arrive during this time.

August 5th – 11th Prayer Days Those who wish to participate in prayer and scheduled activities should arrive during these days.

August 12th Take down the Camp.

A more detailed daily schedule will be announced.

There are many ways you can help. We are posting various ‘wish’ lists along with a budget for this gathering and respectfully request your assistance to help us provide basic services, including first-aid/medical services and at least one evening meal a day. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide this grassroots effort. Any amount of assistance or funding is always appreciated, no amount is too small, it all helps to make a difference!

Water buffalos (large water tanks on a trailer), water tanks, Large beverage cooler,s Bottled water

We are asking organizations, programs, community groups, families, and businesses to consider sponsoring or co-sponsoring one or more meals. Donations of water, food and supplies are more than welcome! We are also asking for monetary donations to rent a refrigeration unit, please refer to the budget if you or your group is interested in assisting with this need.

We are seeking volunteer doctors, nurses, medics, first-response teams, etc. to help ensure basic medical assistance and first aid is available throughout the gathering. Canopy Tent, Cots, snake bite kits, First-Aid kits, medical supplies, water, Gatorade, Powerade, electrolyte replenishing fluids, water coolers.

Canopy tents are needed, all sizes and shapes. Flashlights, Batteries, and solar lighting. There is no access to electricity or open fires so we need creative lighting systems and supplies. Tables, chairs, benches, Tipi’s, poles, tents Propane, propane cookstoves, coffee pots, pots, cooking utensils, serving dishes. Cleaning supplies

Paint, brushes, plywood, banner and sign making materials, fabric or banner material, and volunteer painters and carpenters.

As horse-mounted security will be provided, we are seeking assistance with horse care needs, including, watering tanks, tack, temporary fencing/corral, horse feed and hay. Radio units, flashlights, batteries

As a way to document this gathering from the voices of the participants, we encourage daily journaling by all. Take a few minutes to express your experience throughout your stay at Bear Butte. Please consider donating notebooks, journals, and pens.

We would appreciate your help in providing a youth centered area for children of all ages. This can be a place where we can culturally engage and enrich children and young adults through art, music and storytelling. Please consider donating: canopy tent, shading, storytellers, drummers, singers, artists, teachers, grandma?s, art supplies, journals, seating.

A1 Portables (porta-potties) $27.50/day/toilet x 12 x20 $6600
Dumpsters deposit $2000 3 dumpsters(10yrd) x $175 + 4% tax $546.00
Emptying of dumpsters 2 dumpings x 546.00 $1092.00
Landfill charge $38.11 x 3 tons $114.33
Refrigerator truck (24 ft) $150/day x 12 days $1800.
Diesel fuel $3.00 x 40 gals x 4 fills $480
Food and water 12 days x 500+ persons (estimated) $6000
TOTAL $18,632.33 

We may not need 3 of the 10-yard size dumpsters but estimated on the higher end, as well with the porta-potties.

  Please contact members of the Working Group to coordinate your generous offer of help and thank you again for any assistance you can provide this grassroots effort.

Monetary donations are tax-deductible and can be made payable to:
Sicangu Way of Life Project or the Bear Butte International Alliance Mail to:
Bear Butte International Alliance
PO Box 4232
Sturgis, SD 57785

Remember to mark your gift to the “Bear Butte Prayer Gathering”.

Please visit our website to make an online donation:

Please arrive and be prepared to be as self sufficient as possible. No open fires.

For Information and to Support this Grassroots Effort with Much-Needed Donations please contact Members of the Working Committee:
*  Tamra Brennan 605-347-2061 Tamra[at]
*  Gilbert Brady 406-477-3175 nochey01[at]
*  Marcella Gilbert 605-624-9288 twotails100[at]
*  Phillip Gullikson 605-624-9288 arikaria_king[at]
*  Jay Red Hawk 605-347-4127 cetanduta[at]
*  Anne White Hat 605-347-4127 BBIA[at]


  1. Please post a followup diary if you attend.

    I’ll put up the community calendar after YearlyKos so these events can get on the calendar for planning purposes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.