STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — A wooden ramp; a porch railing; a brick chimney rising through smoke like the burned out trunk of a Ponderosa after a forest fire.
Little more is left of the Bear Butte Lodge, which was engulfed in flames Thursday morning. The lodge sat less than a mile from the summit of the sacred landmark.
According to information from Meade County Emergency Management, the fire was reported at 4:29 a.m. Thursday morning. The Meade Co. Sheriff’s Office was first on scene and were soon joined by Sturgis Fire and EMS, the Fort Meade, Vale and Whitewood fire departments, Meade County Emergency Management and the State Fire Marshal.
When crews arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. Nobody was inside, and no injuries have been reported.
The fire is currently being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which has jurisdiction over fire and arson cases on tribal and federal land.
Bear Butte, known to the Lakota as Mato Paha or “Bear Mountain”, and to the Cheyenne as “Noahvose”, is a laccolithic intrusion. This is in essence, a domed geologic feature formed by the pressure of magma intruding in between existing layers of rock, causing the top layer to flex into a mushroom-like shape.
Bear Butte is one of several similar intrusions across the Black Hills, which were formed millions of years ago. The Butte is sacred to many Tribes across the region, including the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which operated the Bear Butte Lodge as a part of the Tribal Land Enterprise.
According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, many members of the Indigenous community see Bear Butte as “a place where the creator has chosen to communicate with them through visions and prayer.”