We first read about Bear Butte in Edward Lazarus’ book, Black Hills, White Justice, where we read:
[I]n the summer of 1857 the Teton met in a grand council of all their bands, the only meeting of its kind for which any record exists. At least 5000 and perhaps as many as 7500 Sioux gathered at the base of Bear Butte, a stark volcanic outcrop at the northeast end of the Black Hills.
Among the great leaders in attendance were Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and sixteen year-old Crazy Horse. There they pledge their vigilence regarding white expansion, vowing “not to permit further encroachment from the whites.”
To this day, Bear Butte is a sacred place to many tribes. The friendly women at the visitors’ center provided excellent insight, and the materials there explained that tribal members pray and seek visions on the mountain, and provided valuable advice about etiquette and protocol.
Because ceremonies include tying prayer cloths to trees and bushes and we are asked not to photograph them, the photos included here are a slender view of the mountain. Prayer cloths wave in bright colors and quiet tones all over Bear Butte, and if they appear in any of these photos, it’s by accident rather than intention.
We’re fortunate that we were able to climb its peak, especially in a year generous with rains. We heard over and over, throughout the Black Hills, that this year has been especially vibrant for wildlife.
We have to agree with the young woman at the visitors’ center who described Bear Butte as “a magical place.”
A healthy, rigorous climb to the top; a vast view from the summit that reminded us of how small we humans are who walk upon the earth; and a chance to breathe deeply clean, mountain air were just a few of the gifts Bear Butte gave to us, and why we visited more than once.