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Tribes buy Bear Butte land for $1.1M

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A partnership of three Native American tribes bought 270 acres of land near Bear Butte at auction Sunday for more than $1.1 million. 

STURGIS | A consortium of three Native American tribes outbid 21 other registered bidders, agreeing to purchase 270 acres of property near the Bear Butte monument for more than $1 million.

The successful bidders on Sunday were the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe of Oklahoma, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, according to auctioneer Lonnie Arneson.

Arneson said tribal representatives indicated to him that they had no plans to develop the property. When he informed tribal members that three generations of the Coe family had rented the pasture land from the Millins, “they thought that was pretty cool and asked to have the Coe family contact them, because they may just carry on that tradition.”

Bear Butte, located northeast of Sturgis, has cultural significance to many tribes. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe already owns more than 500 acres around the mountain, while the Rosebud Sioux Tribe owns ground at the northwest corner of Bear Butte.

During 90 minutes of bidding in which six tracts were offered individually, then as a whole, the partnership of tribes purchased the land west of Bear Butte State Park for $1,135,936, or about $4,200 per acre, Arneson said.

“It was exciting,” he said. “We had a full house of people and a set of buyers who had educated themselves about the area, and they bid quite freely. They had done their research and were prepared to bid, and they were well-financed.”

Arneson said owner Irene Millin, whose family has owned the property for nearly 75 years, was “totally appalled,” by the purchase price.

“It was much more than she expected,” he said. “She was a very pleased lady.”

Arneson discounted online reports that some auction attendees booed when the successful bidder was announced.

“We didn’t hear that part,” he said. “It must have not been very loud because we didn’t hear it in front. When it was announced, there was quite a roar from the crowd, with a lot of clapping."

Under terms and conditions of the sale, the tribes already have put 15 percent down on their purchase, and will pay an additional 35 percent on or before Dec. 15, the auctioneer said. The remaining 50 percent is due between Jan. 2-6, at which time a closing on the property will be conducted, Arneson  explained.

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