In Support of the Name Bear Lodge National Monument (Currently “Devils Tower”)

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TITLE: In Support of the Name Bear Lodge National Monument (Currently “Devils Tower”)

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, religious freedom is an inherent right for all people, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and affirmed under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978; and

WHEREAS, centuries before the creation of the United States of America, Indigenous people have revered the mountains commonly referred to as the Black Hills as sacred, including several rock features located in present-day parks in South Dakota and Wyoming; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous communities claim their origin in the Black Hills and archeological evidence has revealed that the area was inhabited by some tribes at least as far back as 1000 A.D.; and

WHEREAS, the Black Hills sacred places are intricately intertwined with traditional spirituality and culture as demonstrated by ongoing personal rituals (prayer offerings, sweat lodge ceremonies, vision quests), group ceremonies, and sacred narratives including the origins of People, the origin of ceremonies, sacred objects, hero legends); and

WHEREAS, the Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President of the United States through executive order to proclaim "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as national monuments, in order to preserve public land without waiting for legislation to pass Congress; and

WHEREAS, On September 24, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect an igneous rock tower in Wyoming as the first national monument, and formally designated the site through Executive Order as “Devil’s Tower National Monument;” and

WHEREAS, prior to this designation early white explorers, commissioned cartographers, and United States military leaders consistently employed the name “Bear Lodge” when referring to the site because of its widespread written and oral use of this name by Indigenous people as well as by the incoming federal military, pioneers, miners, and settlers; and

WHEREAS, the labels “Bear Lodge” and “Mato Tipila” are the written inscriptions on the earliest photos of this rock feature and the label on the earliest non-Indigenous maps drawn and published by the U.S. Army or commissioned for the United States Geological Service; and

WHEREAS, the “Bear Lodge Mountain Range,” remains the officially recognized name for the mountains located immediately east of this geological feature and many established businesses and historical areas identify under the “Bear Lodge” distinction; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous people have for over a century repeatedly stated that the 1906 “Devils Tower” name is not the correct translation of the rock’s name and that the Devils Tower name is offensive, insulting, and disparaging because it equates Indigenous cultural and faith traditions practiced at this site to “devil worship,” in essence equating Indigenous people to “devils;” and

WHEREAS, nine of the eighteen national monuments established by President Theodore Roosevelt have either been abolished or no longer retain their original monument designation, and almost half of the current national parks have undergone a significant change in their name, agency or boundaries, showing historical precedent for enacting change to reflect the nation’s values, and priorities.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) supports and requests changing the name of “Devils Tower” to “Bear Lodge National Monument” because the 1906 United States’ action to establish a national monument at a historical and existing sacred place is patently offensive, and based on faulty translation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.