AbstractsGeography &GIS

Contestation of Place: Bear Butte and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

by Davie D. Stasiuk

Institution: Kent State University
Department: College of Arts and Sciences / Department of Geography
Degree: MA
Year: 2012
Keywords: Geography; Military Studies; Native Americans; Native American Studies; Native Studies; Political Science; Religion; Social Research; Place; subjective identity; militarism; American Indian; Bear Butte; The Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Record ID: 1983846
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=kent1353509620


The sacred American Indian mountain of Bear Butte, South Dakota is a contested place under threat from the biker themed campgrounds that facilitate the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. American Indian subjective identity is in a constant flux in response to the many influences of contemporary society. The economic forces at play in this particular region, in conjunction with the dominant political and social forces, including militarism, have placed an important American Indian spiritual place in jeopardy. This thesis outlines the importance of Bear Butte as a sacred place, and examines the processes of political persuasion that value the economic activities of the dominant group over the values of those who use the place for religious and healing activities. The recent neoliberalization, a continuation of centuries of disruptive colonial attitudes and practices, has manifested itself in the form of “militainment” at the campgrounds, transforming the place. This research critically examines elements of Edward Relph’s work on placelessness and authenticity, in regards to the perspective of the bikers who camp in the shadow of Bear Butte during the early weeks of August. Through a qualitative methods analysis based on interviews and observational and participatory field work, the research lends insight into the forces at work that are shaping Bear Butte. The work is filtered through an often personal perspective comprising an experiential examination of the conflict over place at Bear Butte.