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Stop OIL DRILLING Near Bear Butte, South Dakota

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Historical Background on Bear Butte

Bear Butte is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Bear Butte is sacred to many of the Plains Tribes, who continue to travel to the mountain each summer to pray and hold their annual ceremonies. This ritual has been followed since the beginning of time, and continues today.  

The struggle to protect the serenity of Bear Butte from continual encroachment has ultimately developed into a religious freedom vs property rights issue.

The Cheyenne’s prophet, Sweet Medicine, received the covenants of the bundle and four sacred arrows from Bear Butte, also known to the Cheyenne as Noavose.

The Lakota people received their traditional way of life and star knowledge from Bear Butte.

These covenants hold equal reverence for native people as the Ten Commandments do for those from many other religions.

To Native people, Bear Butte is sacred ground, just as Mount Sinai to Hebrews or the Vatican is to Catholics.  

The religious and historical significance of Bear Butte is also evidenced by the great Sioux chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and Red Cloud, each traveling to the mountain for ceremonies throughout their lifetime. Historical encampments were documented, such as the 1857 camp that included many different bands of Lakota, all joining forces at Bear Butte to discuss the invasion of settlers on their homelands.

Bear Butte is a State Park with a National Wildlife Refuge protected by USFWS and also has four National Designations including;

·         National Historical Landmark listed on December 21, 1981

·         National Historical Places listed on June 19, 1973

·         National Natural Landmark, listed on April 1965

·         Registered National Trail (Bear Butte Summit Trail), listed on June 1,1971


Background on Oil Drilling Issue

On November 18, 2010, the Department of Natural Resources approved Oil and Gas Order # 17-2010 permit from Nakota Energy LLC for oil drilling just west of Bear Butte and within the boundaries of the protected Historical Landmark.  The permit encompasses all of section 14 and the north half of section 23 in T6N, R5E, in which 360 acres are within the National Historic Landmark Boundary. View public notices and recommendations pertaining to oil drilling near Bear Butte on the DENR website.

DENR failed to provide adequete notification of the proposed oil drilling permits near Bear Butte to all applicable agencies (State Parks, South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, USFWS and Tribal Nations and the general public.  

DENR violated South Dakota Codified Law, SDCL  1-19A-11.1 - Preservation of historic property--Procedures. The state or any political subdivision of the state, or any instrumentality thereof, may not undertake any project which will encroach upon, damage or destroy any historic property included in the national register of historic places or the state register of historic places until the Office of History has been given notice and an opportunity to investigate and comment on the proposed project.

Our organization, Protect Sacred Sites promptly began an email and calling campaign for the Protect Bear Butte efforts encouraging the public to contact DENR voicing opposition to this proposed oil drilling. An overwhelming show of support and action taken by SDHPO enviably forced DENR to temporarily restrict all oil drilling permits from Nakota Energy and re-open the case for public hearing and comments.  The re-hearing was held on April 21st, 2011.

Five tribes intervened in the contested case hearing, including Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Northern Cheyenne, Santee Sioux Tribe and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. The Sisseton-Wahepton Oyate also submitted an opposition letter for the contested case.

The remaining of the evidentiary portion of the hearing will be held on May 18th at 10:00am in Pierre, SD. At that time parties will continue to submit evidence and witnesses. Upon completion of the hearing, the Board will either make a decision or take it under advisement.

In our conversations with DENR, statements from their upper management such as “This is a conservation vs property rights issue” and several other statements supporting property rights, have great concern with the direction of their final decision making.

We are requesting DENR take into account the evidence provided and cultural and historic significance of Bear Butte, that revoke any and all oil drilling permits located near Bear Butte and within the Historical Landmark boundaries.

We would like to encourage the public to continue to support the efforts of NO Oil Drilling at Bear Butte and sign and forward our petition.

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