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Old 03-26-2006, 09:44 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Montana tribe buys Bear Butte property

Montana tribe buys Bear Butte property
By Jomay Steen
Meade County Times-Tribune - 26 March 2006


About noon Wednesday, a small tribal delegation replaced a worn U.S. flag near the base of Bear Butte with the blue and white flag representing the Northern Cheyenne people of Montana. As a good neighbor, they said, they plan to keep their land pristine.

Northern Cheyenne Tribe President Eugene Little Coyote led the tribe’s council and other officials in a flag song after buying 36 acres of private land on the west side of Bear Butte.

Little Coyote, 33, said the tribe would not build casinos on its land or commercially develop the property. He said his tribe does have a casino within its 444,000-acre reservation in Montana but would not develop such a facility at Bear Butte.

“This is literally the birthplace of our nation,” Little Coyote said.

Janeen Norstegaard said she, her mother and sister sold the land with that in mind.

Earlier this fall, Norstegaard and her family bought Sleeping Bear Campground and Retreat, a 36-acre tract of land, at auction with the intention of creating a campground. However, those plans eventually changed, and the tribe was contacted.

“I prayed about it, and it seemed to be the right thing to do,” Norstegaard said about the sale.

Alberta American Horse Fisher, Northern Cheyenne Council member, said she was humbled to be a part of the land transaction Wednesday at Meade County Title Company in Sturgis.

“It is with an indescribable emotion that we acquire this land at the base of this sacred mountain,” American Horse Fisher said.

Jace Killsback, Northern Cheyenne land authority chairman and tribal council member, would not say how much the tribe had paid for the land but said it was a significant amount.

He said the 8,700 members of the tribe were willing to pay that price.

“We want to keep this land pristine,” Killsback said.

In that regard, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe adopted a resolution Monday opposing Arizona businessman Jay Allen’s application for a liquor license in connection to his plan to develop the area’s largest biker bar, campground and amphitheater near Bear Butte.

Little Coyote and tribal representatives said they would attend the Tuesday, April 4, Meade County Commission meeting in Sturgis to oppose Allen’s application for a liquor license.

Little Coyote said if commissioners approved the application, the encroaching development would fall within two miles of where generations of Northern Cheyenne have prayed, fasted and conducted sacred ceremonies.

“It’s disturbing,” Little Coyote said.

“We want people to know that our identity is tied directly to Bear Butte,” Killsback said.

Since starting to buy property near Bear Butte in the 1970s, this is the most recent acquisition by the tribe. Nearly 35 years ago, the U.S. Department of Interior bought 120 acres of land at the butte’s base for joint ownership among the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and the Northern Cheyenne for its people to practice their traditional religious ceremonies.

David Little White Man, the Northern Cheyenne lease compliance officer, said the Montana tribe had bought more land as a way to preserve its heritage.

The Northern Cheyenne now own 440 acres east of the butte, another 160 acres on the north side and share the 120 acres near the entrance gate of Bear Butte State Park to the south.

“It’s more than 700 acres,” White Man said.

The most recent purchase includes a ranch-style house, barn, garage, well and fenced pasture.

“I see a lot of positive things in this for Meade County and the state of South Dakota,” Killsback said.
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