President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower a national monument 109 years ago today. It was the first landmark set aside under the Antiquities Act.
The nearly vertical monolith known as Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the meandering Belle Fourche River. Once hidden below the earth’s surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers revealing Devils Tower.
Known by several northern plains tribes as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site of worship for many American Indians. The rolling hills of this 1,347 acre park are covered with pine forests, deciduous woodlands, and prairie grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are abundant.
According to research conducted by the National Park Service, several historic documents recount the names “Bear Lodge,” “Bears Lodge,” and “Mato Teepee” were the names assigned to the Tower on most maps, with few exceptions, between 1874 and 1901. In 1875 Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge escorted the scientific expedition of geologist Walter P. Jenney though the Black Hills to determine the truth of rumors of gold initiated by General George Armstrong Custer the previous year. Dodge wrote in his 1875 journal, “The Indians call this shaft ‘The Bad God’s Tower,’ a name adopted, with proper modifications, by our surveyors.” It is speculated that a guide for Lt. Dodge was the source of this translation, and “Bear Lodge” may have been mistakenly interpreted as “Bad God’s.” As a result, “Bad God’s Tower” then became “Devils Tower.” The name “Devils Tower” was applied to maps of that era, and subsequently was used in the name of the national monument when it was proclaimed in 1906.
Source: National Park Service
NewMexiKen, who has circumnavigated Devils Tower, thinks it should be renamed Bears Lodge.
Roosevelt added several more monuments after Devils Tower, including El Morro, Montezuma Castle, Petrified Forest, and Chaco Canyon within the first year of the Act.
Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected: Provided, That when such objects are situated upon a tract covered by a bona fied unperfected claim or held in private ownership, the tract, or so much thereof as may be necessary for the proper care and management of the object, may be relinquished to the Government, and the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to accept the relinquishment of such tracts in behalf of the Government of the United States.