Sturgis Bypass Plan Runs into Indian Graves

That’s not a bump in the road; that’s a grave!

Actually, several American Indian graves along the route of the bypass road the Meade County Commission wants to build from I-90 Exit 37 to the Buffalo Chip Campground:

Meade County Highway Superintendent Ken McGirr told Meade County commissioners Wednesday that several ceremonial grave sites were found during archeological studies of the proposed Sturgis bypass route just a few miles from Bear Butte, Fort Meade and the Custer Trail.

The burial sites are reportedly within the right-of-way proposed for the road.

Meade County Commissioner Alan Aker says the better thing to do may be to reroute the proposed road. He says the commission believes they can come up with a viable solution to keep everybody happy [Gary Matthews, “Survey Turns up Old Grave Sites Along Proposed Sturgis Bypass Route,” KBHB Radio, 2015.05.14].

Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government, the group of Meade County residents who formed to successfully block the tax increment financing district the county proposed to fund construction of the bypass, lists the statutes that would prevent the county from plowing that road into existence. They feel they will ned to watch their local leaders closely and make sure all relevant state officials on historic preservation need to be alerted to make sure commissioners don’t violate those laws or the graves:

Commissioner Alan Aker aggressively sought ways to go around the graves, and the laws. While questioning McGirr, Aker said people must build driveways and roads over graves all the time and that if our laws were in Europe, they wouldn’t have ANY roads. McGirr referenced the use of “best practices” and following state statutes, particularly on undisturbed soils. Aker should listen [Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government, Facebook post, 2015.05.13].

An eastern bypass still strikes me as a good idea for Sturgis. The discovery of these graves means Meade County may have to arc that road out further to the east.

13 Responses to Sturgis Bypass Plan Runs into Indian Graves

  1. How fortunate that those archeological studies were completed. I have to wonder how often we build roads, parking lots, or new strip malls without the consideration of what might lie below our feet.

    I’m also curious about the logistics of these studies. Surely it isn’t feasible to excavate every cubic yard of soil along a proposed roadway, so what are the chances that something is missed before it is too late? I also wonder if there would be different rules depending upon what is found. Would there be less concern for a single unmarked grave or a series of graves that were a result of settlers moving West? Is is just ceremonial sites that are of interest, or the existence of human remains?

  2. larry kurtz

    Exactly, Craig: Dakota Access, KXL, et al. tear through archeological sites, too.

    It’s time to remand ownership of Mato Paha to the tribal nations who worship the mountain so they have more clout to litigate the wanton destruction of Meade County and beyond.

  3. larry kurtz

    ARC in Rapid City does some policing of archeological resources so does Augustana and the University of New Mexico.

  4. larry kurtz

    Imagine a power line or a pipeline going through a white cemetery.

  5. Alan Aker is a weird duck, a pain in the ass kind of weird duck. I think he should go down to Hot Springs and tell them that they need to pave over the Mammoth Site so they can build that hotel they wanted to there. It is Native land in the first place, respect it. Build your road where it does not disturb those who rest there, if it has a curve or two in it, bikers won’t mind.

  6. Paul Seamans

    TransCanada was required to do a cultural resource survey on the Keystone XL route. They did a quick walk through with native personnel who were not indigenuous to this area. In order to do a proper survey you need trained tribal members who know about their tribes cultural traditions. You can’t bring a Navajo tribal member up to the Oceti Sakowin homelands in South Dakota and expect them to do a proper survey. This problem was also encountered in the cultural survey done on the Arzaga/Powertech site.

  7. larry kurtz

    Some contract archaeology is being done by SDSU graduates and others:

  8. Paul Seamans

    Concerned tribal members from various tribes are checking into this.

  9. Do we have any archaeological info on the age of the graves and the tribes to which they might be connected? Paul, I certainly hope the tribes are being informed and are calling the Meade County Commission right away.

    And hey, Keystone XL runs through Meade County. Maybe the guys who surveyed the Sturgis bypass route should head up to the northeastern part of the county and double check TransCanada’s survey?

  10. u mean a gud idea for which developers? at least one locaal archaeologist said no to hinhan kaga rename?? funy how rally draws rapid city politicians ect to positions in meade

  11. Deb Geelsdottir

    A similar thing happened in MN earlier this month. The state was widening a highway on the west side of the metro. Local Indians said ancient burial mounds were there. The state took some core samples and said, No they aren’t. They started road work and unearthed human bones. I’ll be damned, the experts, the local descendants of the mound builders, were right!

    Now the road building has come to a screeching halt, and will remain halted during a good share of the summer, while archeologists carefully excavate, record, mark, document, etc. A lot of time would have been saved had the state officials listened to the real experts.

    Isn’t there a federal law regarding treatment of ancient native artifacts?

  12. NAGPRA

    again repub political expediancy should be punished at ballot bx and larrys name callng is apprpriate