Bear Butte: Sentinel of the Plains
Bear Butte was my introduction to the Black Hills region back in the summer of 1961. Traveling by station wagon across the prairie with my parents and brothers, I watched the lonely butte grow against the horizon as we moved west. Something so dominant, I sensed even then, had to have stories associated with it. Indeed it does. I am especially grateful to Jace DeCory and Donovin Sprague for all they taught me over the years about Lakota historical perspectives and sacred lands. Bob Lee, the late historian, met with me in person many times and introduced me to Grasshopper Jim yarns and much more. Although I never met him, I feel like I knew the late Thomas Odell personally. He spent years writing about Bear Butte, beginning with his graduate school thesis in 1935 and including a book, "Mato Paha, The Story of Bear Butte."
Also, I can attest that the butte itself tells stories. My favorite time to visit is winter, the colder the better, when it's just me, the butte, snow, wind, and eagles. I always come away inspired. Hopefully these Les Voorhis photos will touch you in somewhat the same way, until your next visit. --Paul Higbee
My grandfather's farm was just six miles west of Bear Butte and I have been looking at Bear Butte from his pasture for as long as I can remember. In addition to being an inspiring and beautiful mountain, the sight of Bear Butte let me know I was home. The view of that great rock has provided stability and comfort to me and to many members of my family over the years. The sight of it can calm the soul.
We are not the only people touched by Bear Butte. Many generations before us have known the pull of the mountain from native people to western settlers. I am proud to be able to participate in this project and hope that my photos do justice to such a great mountain. Bear Butte is a mountain with many moods and temperaments and has been a joy to photograph. From blinding snowstorms, to sunlit fog, to thunderous lightning storms, and glorious sunsets...I have been blessed to sample many of its various personalities.
I would like to dedicate this book to my family both living and gone and hope that future generations are able to enjoy and treasure the mountain as we have. --Les Voorhis