Indigenous People Open Summit to Preserve Sacred Mountain

Bear Butte Mountain, host to Summit of Nations, faces encroachment from biker bars and concert venue developments.

Wednesday August 2, 2006

Biker bars and concert venues threaten sacred Bear Butte Mountain

The Summit of Nations started its second day today with the focus of defending Bear Butte Mountain from the encroachment of multiple biker bars and concert venue developments on a sacred territory for more than thirty indigenous Great Plains nations. Bear Butte emerges out of the landscape of western South Dakota just north of the Badlands and part of the Black Hills Mountains. This Summit of Nations has been called to bring protection to this sacred site while also providing a forum for indigenous nations across the Western Hemisphere to share their struggle with one another and to find ways to develop treaties, conventions and coalitions amongst themselves, as sovereign nations, to fight for the protection of their land, its natural resources and their human right to cultural and spiritual freedom to practice their way of life.

NGO Report Back:

The second day of the Summit of Nations started with the culmination of NGO reporting on indigenous human rights issues and land rights. The morning began with a prayer spoken by Carrie Dann, a Western Shoshone long-time activist who has been working for integrity of the Ruby Valley Treaty and Western Shoshone land rights in the state of Nevada. Following this, the Oglala Sioux Nationís President, Alex White Plume, welcomed the NGO's and leadership delegations to share stories from their respective nations. Representatives from Tohono Oí Odham spoke about the cross-border issues affecting them as their tribe is located in both Mexico and the United States. They also spoke of water, land and immigration issues.

Representatives from the Kichwa indigenous nation came to talk about Texaco oil exploration and sovereignty issues on their land in the Nation of Ecuador. Representatives from the Buffalo Field Campaign came to discuss the campaign to protect the Yellowstone bison herd, the last continuously wild, free roaming and genetically pure buffalo herd in the United States.

Papal Bull and Indigenous Resource Issues:

The meeting then turned to discuss larger historical underpinnings of the relationship between European invaders and indigenous peoples. This included a discussion and presentation concerning the Papal Bull Doctrine issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 which laid the foundation for the legal basis of the relationship between the United States Government to Native Americans. This Papal Bull Doctrine is also known as the Doctrine of Discovery that essentially granted the rights of discovery to any explorer and gave them the right to conquer the lands which held people of different religions.

Columbus had already reported the Americas and so the doctrine was written to encompass this valuable land asset, as well as any lands that Europe might "discover" in the future. This was based on the ignorance of Europeans to the deep government structures of the Native Nations and the millennia-old civilization that continues today. The doctrine of "permission" issued by the Roman Catholic Church has been used in the relationship with Native People up to 1994 and now currently is seen as the backbone of Federal Indian Law. This Papal Bull Doctrine was discussed at length today and it was decided by the participants at today's meeting, whose numbers reached around 4oo+, that they would rescind the Papal Bull Doctrine and declare a resolution that they will take to the United Nations after the Summit. This document will be discussed at greater length tomorrow.

Return of the Riders. Horseback beats the bike. . .

Today as the sun was pointing towards the northwest, a group of fifteen indigenous men and one woman, called the "Riders on the Storm", rode into the Bear Butte Encampment after riding thirty days from where they started at Sacred Rock in Canada. The riders rode up to the summit, looking tired but strong after their ride of strength and solidarity came to its culmination here at Bear Butte. These riders started their ride when the encampment at Bear Butt Mountain began on July 4th. This ride was an act of commitment and encouragement to the journey and the struggle of indigenous people. The riders stopped in every reservation along the way and gave strength to the people they visited. The riders themselves represented multiple Native American Nations.

The Summit attendees gathered to sing and drum for these riders as they slowly made their way to the center of the gathering grounds. The ceremony started with words from Chief Redcloud of the Oglala Sioux Nation and then the riders were welcomed and acknowledged by all of the gathered people. Chief Redcloud recognized that the riders are young and endured many challenges on their overland journey with a heat wave and across many, many miles. The elders then gathered and sang to the riders to honor this dedicated young group of spiritual warriors.

The riders rode in the face of the bikers, developers, and governments that have committed acts of desecration on their sacred lands and ignored the sovereign rights of indigenous people to their land, resources, and way of life. The riders brought the sacred staff home to Bear Butte Mato Paha and it is resting here to represent that the Native Way of Life is indeed a reality, and the sacred medicine staff held by its people will bring back the way.

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