The Boulder County Sheriff's Office began investigating the destruction of a American Indian sweat lodge on Valmont Butte on Thursday afternoon, following a report of damage to the historic site.

Spiritual leader Robert Cross -- who was informed Wednesday by the city of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks about the damage to the ceremonial lodge -- filed the police report.

The Valmont Butte site, considered sacred by American Indians, is owned by the city of Boulder.

Cross, an Oglala Lakota, expressed frustration that no one had reported the destruction of the spiritual site to police before he did.

"If this had happened to a church, it would have been all over the country," he said.

Participants have used the butte on Boulder's eastern edge for regular prayer ceremonies and have access to a city shed where they store equipment for the sweat lodge.

Cross had not seen the site Thursday but was informed that the wooden sweat lodge had been torn out of the ground and that all of the equipment used during the ceremonies was missing.

"Somebody desecrated my spiritual area," Cross said.

In a sweat-lodge ceremony, water is thrown on rocks that have been heated over fire. The steam created cleanses the body of toxins and heals the body emotionally and spiritually, some American Indians believe, and the practice can be traced back thousands of years.

The destruction was discovered by Boulder's facilities and fleet manager, Bill Boyes, Wednesday while he was meeting with a contractor on Valmont Butte.

He noticed that the door to the butte shed was open and, when he went to investigate, saw that it had been broken into. He reported the break-in to Doug Newcomb at the Open Space and Mountain Parks department.

"I looked inside and saw rags and rodent droppings," Boyes said. "There was nothing there."

He said the padlocked gate blocking the entrance to the upper area of the butte was undisturbed.

Cross said he finds the circumstances suspicious because there are a limited number of people with keys to that upper gate.

The city of Boulder has tentatively agreed to sell off 71 acres of the 101-acre Valmont Butte site to the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands Valmont Butte, which hopes to then sell the property to community groups and tribes. But earlier this month, the City Council said the sale might not be the best option because the city could lose a substantial amount of money based on a new appraisal of the site.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Jennifer Bronson at JEBronson@gmail.com.

Archived comments

At least the Spongebob bandits didn't find it.

ttinco

5/23/2008 12:25:57 AM

Cross, an Oglala Lakota, expressed frustration that no one had reported the destruction of the spiritual site to police before he did.

"If this had happened to a church, it would have been all over the country," he said.

Mr. Cross, if it had happened to a church, it would have been on private property.

"Somebody desecrated my spiritual area," Cross said.

Mr. Cross, why is the CITY responsible for your spiritual area? In fact, it is un-Constitutional for the city to be responsible.

Now, I understand that the long history of Valmont Butte makes my last statement too simplistic. And frankly I have no problem with the use of public land for a spiritual purpose, as it does not appear to be interfering with anyone else. And there is no doubt that this is a criminal act for which justice will be demanded.

But the church statement is out of place. Had this been a church, it would not have been on city land.

blacksho89@yahoo.com

5/23/2008 6:37:12 AM

It was someone's else land before the city took it.

fardila@hotmail.com

5/23/2008 7:13:52 AM

blacksho89,

Many Euro-Americans and American Indians would agree that a parcel of land is sacred when something of great historical importance occurred on that spot, or when human action has consecrated land. For example land that is set aside for churches or cemeteries, battlefields like the one at Gettysburg and the World Trade Center or even the place where ancestors originated, like the family farm. Similarly, many American Indians recognize Wounded Knee as a place held sacred. However, an important difference in Euro-American and American Indian viewpoints is that, for American Indians, this sense of the sacred exists independently of anyone [outside] recognizing it, while the Judeo-Christian tradition requires that sacredness be codified or formally recognized.

While traditional American Indian societies view the land and all that it encompasses as a relative or part of the interrelationship of life, Euro-Americans tend to have little religious connection to the land itself. Protestant Christians, the historically dominant group in the United States, are evangelical, transportable, Bible-based, and not rooted to a particular landscape. Because religion is based on the word, not the landscape, Euro-Americans are able to sanctify a piece of land or even de-sanctify it, turning former churches into shops or private homes. If the codification is established, the land and all that it holds is sacred; if it is not, the land and all that it holds reverts to the raw material from which profits can be made.

As a result, even though both see that human action can help make a particular place and what it holds sacred, the need for external recognition cause Euro-Americans to raise questions about proof when American Indians say that a specific site and object are sacred.

respectsnothing@msn.com

5/23/2008 7:37:29 AM

If this is the same sweat lodge that I saw a couple of years ago, it was built far from any source of water and quite close to an old wooden structure covering a pit full of some form of chemical waste.

It was initially built there without notifying the city and was used without bothering to notify the fire department. In addition, the west end of the butte is a sheer drop left from gravel mining operations.

Who would be liable for a fire that spread toxic waste over a large area, or the death of someone taking a dive off the end of the butte?

Apparently, now that the City is allowing its use, providing direct public support for religious activity, the taxpayers would foot the bill.

frozen_mackerel

5/23/2008 7:46:31 AM

Quote vkberlin:

""You can take your continual whiteboy "church vs state' babble junk and stuff it. Sorry, but that is how it is. In theory it is sweet. But in reality it does not work that way.""

^Well if you want to talk about it in terms of before the "white boyâ came to America. Another Indian bigger then the one who built the "churchâ could come by take it and take your wife then take all your property and you won't do a thing about it because you are smaller.

There are your old fashion Indian laws.. Yeah it was a real utopia,, in your own imagination ...

sidd

5/23/2008 7:49:03 AM

I didn't know blacksho was white.

monkeys

5/23/2008 8:07:40 AM

blacksho

....But the church statement is out of place. Had this been a church, it would not have been on city land...

Pretty amazing white boy. It is a church regardless of where it is located. The fact that happens to be on what you call public land is not relevant. It was there long before you showed up here.

So if the city sells it to him, is it now a church? Probably stolen from him anyway. Churches on public land. How bout religious worship chapels and sacred places for white people etc.... Cemeteries located on public land??? The national and state and local cemeteries where there are chapels for worship.

You can take your continual whiteboy "church vs state' babble junk and stuff it. Sorry, but that is how it is. In theory it is sweet. But in reality it does not work that way.

vkberlin

5/23/2008 7:21:56 AM

The Lakota Sioux never considered Valmont Bluff sacred because they were never here. It would be helpful if local governments girded their loins to tell Native American wannabe religious patriarchs every bit as retro, hypocritical, and desperate for attention as the Christian versions to take a hike.

By the standards offered as evidence about Valmont Bluff, any high mesa or rock was likely considered important at some point to someone, and we cannot take a step without crunching the remains of someone from the past. So what?

It gives a great deal of delight to Indians and to others to be a pain to governments, which is presented as Irony and therefore Just. Be it said, there is no doubt a special ring of hell should exist for those who hypocritically announced a superior law and way and violated those very laws and ways to obtain land out of avarice as Europeans, and then Americans, did.

The Native American problem in this spin war is that they only have standing to bitch by the laws and standards OF those who conquered them, certainly not by their own. Should they have been treated by the standards of the native Americans of the time, they'd have been enslaved, killed, and/or forcibly melded into the dominant culture.

Should the Lakota Sioux want to acknowledge spiritual claims to land (itself interesting, since all Indians supposedly once denied anyone could own land), we can look forward to them relinquishing current claims to the Black Hills back to the Crow, who in turn........

It would be helpful if Boulder's various agencies treated spiritual claims with the derision they deserve. We're being played.

darkcloud@darkendeavors.com

5/23/2008 8:26:09 AM

Very suspicious, locked gate and all.

There'll be no outrage directed at the city for allowing religious ceremonies to take place on city land?

If that's the case, let's bring back the manger scene and menorah during the Winter Holiday Season downtown . While we're at it, let's change the name back to Christmas and Hanukkah.

backrange

5/23/2008 8:30:55 AM

DC -

"The Destruction of a Amererican..."

vowel sound = An

consonant sound = A

cicatryx

5/23/2008 8:44:42 AM

Perhaps no one "reported the destruction of the spiritual site" because nothing was destroyed? Sounds like someone stole some stuff, and broke a door/lock - I don't see where the site was 'desecrated'. The site still exists, another sweat lodge can be built, ceremonies can still be held....it's the _site_ that's important, right?

Up here in Estes Park and in the nearby Nat'l Park there are vision quest and other 'sacred' sites. Some were considered so by the Arapaho and Ute and have been historically documented, and some have morphed into 'new age' sites.

One prominent historical site in the Estes Valley is on private property and now off limits because of some 'new age' trash and trespassers. Mr. Cross should count his blessings that he has access to a historical sacred site - especially since it's on land that his people never historically occupied.

JustSayin

5/23/2008 8:44:53 AM

"The Native American problem in this spin war is that they only have standing to bitch by the laws and standards OF those who conquered them, certainly not by their own."

You put it very succinctly. But when the Native American Rights Fund flexes its legal muscle local governments grovel touchingly.

Another irony: In discussions concerning Valmont Butte, Carol Affleck of Rural Historic Valmont portrayed the first Valmont homesteader as generously agreeing to let the Arapaho camp there, while observing that "territorial troops from Boulder" perpetrated the Sand Creek massacre.

She conveniently forgets that the troops trained for the job at the rural historic Valmont farm of George Chambers. Likewise, she forgets that settlers in Valmont did their best to use up the butte for building material.

hatmonger

5/23/2008 8:51:53 AM

This is phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2: Knock it down and put up a casino.

Sea_Bass

5/23/2008 9:10:37 AM

It was the toxic prairie dog monsters...they're pissed and they want revenge!

barney

5/23/2008 9:18:53 AM

"The city of Boulder has tentatively agreed to sell off 71 acres of the 101-acre Valmont Butte site to the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands Valmont Butte, which hopes to then sell the property to community groups and tribes."

In other words, 71 acres is to be sold to a recently created group which has never managed or owned any property up to this point, a group whose already loosely defined "mission" can change at will. They will be given ownership, with the right to sell any or all of it.

Where are the safeguards for this land? The trust's proclaimed good intentions are insufficient. The city should not sell.

susan_g

5/23/2008 9:24:04 AM

Jeepers sorry.

vkberlin

5/23/2008 9:33:40 AM

From my original post:

"Now, I understand that the long history of Valmont Butte makes my last statement too simplistic. And frankly I have no problem with the use of public land for a spiritual purpose, as it does not appear to be interfering with anyone else. And there is no doubt that this is a criminal act for which justice will be demanded."

So why the hate, people?

blacksho89@yahoo.com

5/23/2008 9:39:31 AM

I don't think the application of the Constitution should be tailored to certain individuals or religions. It is oppressive, per se, to do so, so it's a peculiar way to address past oppressions.

I can enjoy it when Native Americans stick it to White culture, but I also think we need to tell it like it is.

There's more than a whiff of a land grab in this idea. Native leaders shined on the local government, letting them buy it thinking they had the thumbs up to build on it.

Then Native leaders pulled the rug out from under the City, claiming they said no such thing. Result: the City has to sell at a big loss, and Joe Taxpayer picks up the tab for the grab.

hatmonger

5/23/2008 10:18:12 AM

A few of the posters seem to be thinking in the mindset of "Native Americans are the enemy." The irony is that the federal government routinely recruits Native Americans on modern reservations to fight foreign wars to defend the US Constitution. Examples include Ira Hayes, the Navajo Code talkers, and many others. The Navajo Times did a story on a member who had suffered an amputation after an Iraq battle. Even in the 1800s, General Crook used many scouts - some of whom won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Military service to defend the US Constitution is very common among Native Americans on modern reservations.

physicist

5/23/2008 10:18:38 AM

"This is phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2: Knock it down and put up a casino."

A provision against gambling is written into the sale contract.

hatmonger

5/23/2008 10:19:26 AM

"A provision against gambling is written into the sale contract."

If the new owners can declare the land "sovereign", *any* contract provision can go out the window.

dont@bugmenot.com

5/23/2008 11:01:32 AM

i don't know how some of you figured out how to turn on your computers.

clackmon@yahoo.com

5/23/2008 10:48:43 AM

"i don't know how some of you figured out how to turn on your computers."

Next step: locate the shift key.

albanal

5/23/2008 10:52:16 AM

Who could have guessed the shift key was such a "touchy" subject?

We are truly in deep waters here.

albanal

5/23/2008 11:05:31 AM

"If the new owners can declare the land 'sovereign', *any* contract provision can go out the window."

Contracts between sovereign entities are supposed to be binding. Of course, the United States broke nearly every one it ever solemnly enacted with Native tribes.

You'd have to be a real party-pooper not to appreciate the irony.

albanal

5/23/2008 11:09:14 AM

Hey! vkberlin has disappeared.

Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long.

Bring back MondoBoulder!

LightningRose

5/23/2008 11:09:37 AM

I think everyone is missing the point of the story. This isn't about "Native American rights", it's about the fact that someone had their property stolen and their building broken into. Why does every story published have to turn into a self-righteous battle between everyone? Belive it or not... it's not all about you and your beliefs.

Tired_of_it_all

5/23/2008 11:59:14 AM

"I think everyone is missing the point of the story."

No. I think it's you that's missing the point. The Sheriff is investigating the theft/vandalism.

But what's the idea of tax-supported religious activity on public land in the first place? Especially, since this area is off-limits to the the public that's footing the bill and assuming legal liability for activities that are hazardous.

Just because it doesn't seem important to you, doesn't mean it's not an issue.

albanal

5/23/2008 12:06:25 PM

Exactly, it's about the sheriff investigating theft/vandalism, not about whether or not the religious acitvity on the land is just. I didn't say it's not an important issue to me, I'm just saying that's not what this story is about. Yet everyone wants to make it about them.

Tired_of_it_all

5/23/2008 12:13:54 PM

albanal,

American Indians don't have a religion. It's a "way of life" therefore there is no tax-supported "religious" activity. It's strictly spiritual.

Tired_of_it_all is right, this story is about investigating vandalism.

respectsnothing@msn.com

5/23/2008 12:55:37 PM

"American Indians don't have a religion. It's a 'way of life' therefore there is no tax-supported 'religious' activity. It's strictly spiritual."

So far, that could be the silliest comment so far. Where do you get stuff like that? Did you just make it up? And tax supported spiritual activity is cool?

And yes, we know what the story is "about."

So what?

hatmonger

5/23/2008 1:17:10 PM

Yes, what the story isn't about can be more significant than what it purports to be about.

What is the motive in trying to restrict the discussion here?

albanal

5/23/2008 1:20:37 PM

"Contracts between sovereign entities are supposed to be binding. Of course, the United States broke nearly every one it ever solemnly enacted with Native tribes."

Very ironical and I appreciate it greatly. However, "supposed to" and "legally will" are two different things.

dont@bugmenot.com

5/23/2008 1:55:26 PM

monkeys:

I don't know; am I white?

blacksho89@yahoo.com

5/23/2008 1:58:48 PM

"Cross said he finds the circumstances suspicious because there are a limited number of people with keys to that upper gate."

Hmmmmm, inside job? Did they find any empty bottles of Jack Daniels?

millflowers

5/23/2008 5:30:40 PM

Given that this government has endorsed Christianity for so long, and continues to use religious rhetoric in political debates, the issue of church/state here is moot. Unfortunately, what Robert Cross stated is right. Any vandalism of a church would be immediately reported, but that is simply because his faith is a minority, and Americans don't really take too kindly to other faiths besides Christianity.

It's a disappointment that this sweat lodge was vandalized, regardless of who has a "right" to the land. But whether or not it is a sacred space is beside the point. It was vandalized and therefore the cops should take care of it.

katmcmahan

5/23/2008 5:56:06 PM

"Given that this government has endorsed Christianity for so long, and continues to use religious rhetoric in political debates, the issue of church/state here is moot."

No, I'm afraid it is not. The second clause of your sentence does not follow from the first. The issue of church and state is one where eternal vigilance is most appropriate. No one should be forced to support someone else's religion through the government.

No one approves of the vandalism or questions whether the police should investigate. That is the question that is moot.

hatmonger

5/23/2008 6:11:25 PM

I lived in Colorado for 4 years and met a lot of nice people. I left the Indian Reservation in AZ and got an engineering job in Boulder County. The racial tension in "border towns" near the AZ reservation was often pathetic (e.g. Show Low). Such towns have been known to have Ku Klux Klan activity. By comparison, Boulder, CO was generally neutral although occasional racism could be observed. I met a Lakota who told me he never really experienced racism in Boulder or Denver but mentioned bad experiences in South Dakota. Running is a popular sport among indigenous people and some reservation athletes have participated in the Bolder Boulder (e.g. CU runner Clint Wells or Division II Champion Brandon Leslie from Adam State). The Air Force Academy also had Navajo basketball players back in the late 1990s. Al Waquie and Steve Gachupin used to win the Pikes Peak races. Colorado is a great place for athletes from the reservations.

physicist

5/23/2008 7:41:37 PM

Sounds like an inside job. Usually lodges are kept a secret as to location. There are native groups that feel it is their right to tear them down for offense against spirit. Maybe he crossed a heyoka? For the rest of us natives that contribute to society. Here is some education Many lodges are on private land that we work for and don't designate as a non-profit. There are many of us natives that do abide by the law, not enjoy antogonizing the government and quietly pray and live our spiritual lives without tax payer money.

East_of_Reality

5/24/2008 10:41:15 PM