The Gap in Between: Boundaries and Borders in a Multi-cultural Context

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Boundaries and borders are of interest to geographers, both as physical and symbolic space. Boundaries are cultural constructs that are generally defined by the colonizers/settlers' legal precepts. Traditional indigenous thinking describes boundaries in ways different from the settler state. This paper explores cultural, political, and legal boundaries at Bear Butte State Park, a place sacred to Native Americans, in western South Dakota. This study, based on ethnographic interviews and a review of court testimony, media accounts, legal reviews and Meade County Commission meeting minutes, investigates the Lakota perceptions of cultural boundaries for Bear Butte. The study then explains how those perceptions must be compromised or redefined according to the views of the descendants of the settlers, namely those who own private or state property in the area. Three types of boundaries will be presented traditional cultural boundaries, legal boundaries, and compromise boundaries or buffer zones. In conclusion, this paper will reflect on the conflicts that have arisen as a result of the contested views of the boundaries of Bear Butte.