Devils Tower (Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí in the Lakota language, meaning “Bear Lodge” and “Brown Buffalo Horn”) is a laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains, which are part of the Black Hills in Crook Country in Wyoming.
Once hidden below the earth’s surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers, revealing the Tower. The oldest rocks visible were laid down in a shallow sea during the Triassic period, 225 to 195 million years ago. Piles of broken columns, boulders, small rocks, and stones lie at the base of the tower, indicating that it was once wider than it is today.
Many Indian tribes over America consider the site to be sacred. Today, more than 20 tribes (Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, Shoshone etc.) have established ties to the tower, and many groups visit the site to perform traditional ceremonies every day.
All of the tribes have many different stories about the Tower. For example, according to the Kiowa and Lakota tribes, a group of girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them.
They climbed atop a rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Then the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach them. The bears left deep claw marks in an effort to climb the rock. When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into stars.
The name “Devil’s Tower” originated in 1875 when a misinterpretation from Colonel Richard Irving Dodge’s expedition somehow translated the native name as “Bad God’s Tower”. Actually, the formation had many names, “Bear Lodge” and “Brown Buffalo Horn” are the most well known, but there are more – Bear’s Tipi, Bear’s Liar, Tree Rock, and Grizzly Bear Lodge.
On September 24, 1906, Devils Tower was declared the first United States National Monument by president Theodore Roosevelt.