March 15, 2016
The Honorable Bill Cassidy, Chairman
The Honorable Martin Heinrich, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on National Parks
304 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
RE: NCAI OPPOSITION TO S. 2039, AND SUPPORT FOR CHANGING THE NAME OF “DEVIL’S TOWER” TO THE BEAR LODGE NATIONAL MONUMENT
Dear Chairman Cassidy and Ranking Member Heinrich:
On behalf of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest, largest, and most representative organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, I write to express our opposition to S. 2039, A bill to designate the mountain at the Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, as Devils Tower and for other purposes. During NCAI’s 2015 Annual Convention in San Diego, CA, our membership adopted Resolution #SD-15-001, “In Support of the Name Bear Lodge National Monument (Currently “Devils Tower”)”. NCAI Resolution #SD-15-001 was originally forwarded for consideration by our membership from the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.
Throughout history many areas of tribal cultural, religious, and historical importance received different name designations by early non-tribal settlers and the federal government. These names either attempted to reflect the English translations of tribal designations, or entirely replaced them with an unrelated non-tribal description. However, in the case of “Devils Tower” early documented evidence has shown this area labeled as “Bear Lodge” by early settlers, commissioned cartographers, and the U.S. military. The Bear Lodge area also holds immense sacred, religious, and cultural importance to tribes in the region, which has been thoroughly documented by the National Park Service.
For over a century tribes in the region have repeatedly stated that the 1906 “Devils Tower” name is not the correct translation. The designation of “Devils Tower” upon a sacred and culturally significant area to tribes in the region is patently offensive and we are hopeful that you will stand with Indian Country in opposing S. 2039, and instead focus efforts on renaming the area to the Bear Lodge National Monument.
National Congress of American Indians
March 15, 2016