Bear Butte in South Dakota is where the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes received their creation myth, and is still a religious site of great importance, despite being only a few miles from the biker bars and rallies of Sturgis.
This photograph is of Bear Butte, a rock outcropping on the northern edge of the Black Hills in South Dakota. Both the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian Nations believed that their creator handed down the rules of behavior from the top of this butte, and it remains a sacred site, covered in prayer flags, for many plains Indians. It is here, camped next to Bear Butte in the 1850’s, that the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse had his first vision that made him dedicate the rest of his life to protecting this sacred land from the white invaders. The history of the Black Hills, and Crazy Horse’s struggle to defend them, is one of outright aggression and thievery. Although these hunting grounds had been left to the Sioux by treaty, the discovery of gold in the area meant that any treaties the United States made were not worth the paper they were printed on. This is one of several photographs I made while following the life of Crazy Horse, a man I’ve always admired. He never allowed himself to be photographed, never agreed to scout for the army against other tribes, and was buried in secret after he was murdered. Just a few miles down the road in this photograph, there is a strip of biker bars that service the annual Sturgis motorcycle festival. The Full Throttle Saloon has a giant statue of a cowboy drinking a beer in front, and has been the setting of a reality television series on the biker life. Listening to the roar of the Harley engines, it is very possible to realize what victory and defeat, in the truest sense, can mean.