No room for "pseudo-Indian charlatans"

  • Protestors at Bear Butte, S.D.

    John Young
  New-age religion and Native American tradition clashed at Bear Butte State Park in western South Dakota earlier this summer. The Lakota and other tribes say the 4,422-foot landmark is being desecrated by non-Indians who use it for male-bonding weekends and crystal worship. More than 100 people, mostly Lakota, protested at the butte in June. "Sometimes I wish the white people would leave us alone," Emma Waters, 67, told Indian Country Today. Protest organizers asked the state to close the park periodically for spiritual cleansing, and to designate tribal sacred areas that would be off limits to all except tribal members. Another demand: Employ Lakotas as full-time cultural advisors. Park Manager Tony Gullet says some protesters threatened violence against competing religious groups at the park. But, Gullet says, "There's no way that we can exclude certain groups." At a Lakota Nation meeting in Kyle last year, the tribe issued a declaration of war against "pseudo-Indian charlatans' who steal from Native religions and misuse sacred sites. State Parks Director Doug Hofer says his department is working with elders from several tribes to resolve the conflict.

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