Protecting Nóávóse – Bear Butte
To the Cheyenne people, living in eastern Montana, the protection of Nóávóse or Bear Butte has always been a priority, as it is the place where Mahay’o (Creator) bestowed upon the Cheyenne prophet Motsé’eóeve (Sweet Medicine) the Maahótse (sacred arrow bundle).
It is believed that the place where he received this sacred bundle was at the Arrow Lodge Tipi Ring that still exists at Bear Butte.
On Saturday April 29, Jim Jandreau of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe who is the Park Manager at Bear Butte led an annual forum that addresses issues that arise at the mountain. The forum was held at the Sturgis Community Center located at 1401 Lazelle Street from 8:30 am to noon.
Jandreau thanked everyone for coming and explained that the purpose of the annual forum, which began in 1997, was to address issues that may arise at the mountain including Trust, religious use, dogs on the mountain, alcohol consumption on a sacred site, human remains (ashes) being left on the mountain, hunting, artifact looters, park development and overcrowding in the ceremonial area.
Jandreau said that in 2021 South Dakota National Guard’s 842nd Engineer Company’s Aviation Regiment provided assistance with a HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to sling load in the heavy materials to replace the observation deck near the summit.
This year Jandreau said that the bridge to the ceremonial area would be replaced with a culvert and that they would also be replacing the Foot Bridge to the ceremonial grounds.
“The bridge that goes to the ceremonial grounds will be replaced by a road. When we replace the bridge our work will not interfere with the ceremonial season,” Jandreau reassured.
Ryman Lebeau, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe brought up the issue of vegetation and asked if it would be disturbed.
Jandreau assured him that all vegetation would be replaced and that chokecherry trees would be planted in the area to replace any vegetation disturbed by construction.
Steve Vance, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said that on Cheyenne River, whenever vegetation is disturbed, the tribe replaces the lost plants in a 4 to 1 ratio.
Jandreau pointed out that the importance of the forum was highlighted when they had to address an issue that arose when “Smiles A lot” (Nathan Chasing Horse) the infamous medicine man, would bring more than 70 people each season to the mountain. He said they would stay for more than a month and more or less took over the ceremonial grounds and intimidated other park visitors. He said since that time and because of this forum, visitation to Bear Butte is now limited to 10 days.
The fact that the Cheyenne people hold Nóávóse as a sacred place was evident at the forum hosted by the South Dakota Dept. of Game Fish and Parks, as most of those in attendance were from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in eastern Montana.
Among those in attendance was Ernest Little Mouth, Vice-President of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lamedeer, Montana. Also in attendance were Billford Curly, ceremonial elder and wisdom keeper of the language, and culture, Wallace Bearchum, Northern Cheyenne Enrollment Director who is a descendant of Chief Little Wolf and Eugene Limpy who lives at Bear Butte as a protector of the ceremonies.
Billford Curly shared that at one time there were four allied tribes that brought special gifts into the circle. He said they were the Apache, who brought to the people the Ceremonial Bear Medicine, the Arapaho who brought the Sun Dance cedar, the Sioux who brought the sacred pipe and the Northern Cheyenne who brought the sacred arrows.
Curly said is he concerned about the survival of the sacred ceremonies and the need to reunite the four allies in an effort to protect the ceremonies.
“There is only a few of us left that speak the language, know the traditions and the ceremonies. We are losing a lot of our elders,” Curly said. “We need to work on our protocols to protect our people. We depend on our sacred mountain to help us.”
Jandreau also spoke about the need to protect the language and culture. “When we lose one of our elders, it is like the burning of a library. We can’t recover that knowledge, all we have left is the ashes.”
Jandreau expressed the need to protect the Northern Cheyenne Sacred Arrow Tipi Ring that is located on the mountain.
He said the Park Service would like to see signage at the location, “Give us the narrative for a physical sign as to what this is and what it means to you. There are flint knapping’s there and visitors don’t understand the meaning of those and they don’t know your history,” he told the Northern Cheyenne delegations that was present including their Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “This has to come from you.”
He said the Bear Butte ceremonial grounds are used by many tribes and sometimes they go around looking for rocks and they get into the tipi ring. “They are not being malicious. That’s why I would like to see signage there that shows the significance of this special place.”
Jandreau said that two seasonal trail guides were hired for the 2023 visitor’s season and that one of them is from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Kaden Walks Nice. He said that 47 to 50 thousand people visit Bear Butte annually and that Walks Nice, “is going to be able to share the Northern Cheyenne point of view.”
Walks Nice shared that he was raised by traditional people and that they taught him sacred knowledge about the prophet Sweet Medicine who brought to the people the sacred arrows.
“What these men taught me was that Sweet Medicine was in exile. The ancient ones took him inside Bear Butte and they taught him about the sacred arrows covenants and the traditional societies. They gave him instruction on how to live and reorganize our people,” Walks Nice said. “So today this is my version of why I’m here, to continue on the sacred knowledge of our people.”
Other issues covered were deer harvesting on the mountain for ceremonies, financial help for the development of a campground owned by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, drought conditions and the need to be mindful when starting fires.
(Contact Ernestine Anunkasan Hupa at email@example.com)
The post Protecting Nóávóse – Bear Butte first appeared on Native Sun News Today.
Tags: Top News