FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:Thursday, March 12, 2009
Bear Butte: A Sacred Site Worth Visiting
STURGIS, S.D. -- Located just outside of the legendary Sturgis on S.D. Highway 79 sits a formation jutting from the rolling prairie. Formed millions of years ago from igneous rock, the natural wonder of Bear Butte provides much more than a lesson in Black Hills geology.
Bear Butte is a site sacred to many Native American tribes, especially the Cheyenne and the Lakota. Artifacts dating back 10,000 years have been found near Bear Butte. In more recent times, the Cheyenne and Lakota have maintained a deep spiritual tie to Mato Paha, the Lakota name for Bear Butte.
“For the Cheyenne and Lakota, this is where all their sacred ways come from,” said Jim Jandreau, park manager at Bear Butte State Park.
The mountain, which attracts visitors from all over the world, is still the site for many traditional religious ceremonies. It is common to see an abundance of small and colorful cloths and tobacco ties hanging from trees as prayer offerings.
“The mountain is about prayer, self reflection,” Jandreau said.
The Bear Butte Education Center, located at the base of the mountain, houses various displays depicting the geology and history of the mountain. Also included are exhibits about the cultural beliefs of the Northern Plains Indians.
The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Since then, it has also been named a National Natural Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
A number of recreational activities are available at Bear Butte State Park. The Summit Trail, the only trail on the mountain, climbs 1,000 feet in elevation and offers a view of four states. Visitors can camp and fish at Bear Butte Lake just across S.D. 79. They can also hike and ride horseback on the Centennial Trail. The 111-mile Centennial Trial begins at Bear Butte and ends in Wind Cave National Park.
Bear Butte is managed by the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks. The park is open year-round for day use only. The daily entrance fee is $4 per person or $6 per car. Participants in religious activities are exempt from fees.