While McCain has a strong record of championing Native causes, his legislative coups don't reflect the need to protect sacred sites and indigenous people's religious freedom.
McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, spoke to several thousand motorcycle enthusiasts at an annual tribute to military men and women attending the Sturgis Rally, the country's largest biker extravaganza. He greeted the crowd at the Buffalo Chip Campground, about four miles south of Mato Paha, a sacred butte rising 1,253 feet from the surrounding prairie.
Traffic to the campground was backed up for hours Monday night as people drove to the rough-and-rowdy, leather-and often-barely-clad venue for the night's headliners, featuring motorcycle stunts, Kid Rock, female wrestlers, the Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Pageant - and McCain.
“I find it strange that he would come to a venue such as the Sturgis Rally that is very well known for nudity and drunkenness,” said Tamra Brennan, founder and director of Protect Sacred Sites.
“I understand he was there to honor the veterans, but it seems there's a lot of other ways he could have honored veterans.
“And why didn't he come into Indian Country while he was here?” she said. “During the campaign process, he didn't come to any of the reservations like the other candidates did and talk to people about Indian issues.”
Brennan, who lives at the base of Bear Butte, is among Native sacred site advocates campaigning to protect Bear Butte from continual encroachment, mostly by big biker bars within eye- and ear-shot of the ceremonial mountain, a religious area in the foothills of the Lakota Nation's revered Black Hills.
Below: What McCain cares about:
And doesn't care about: