Location: Devil's Tower, WY, June 2008
One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village when they were chased by bears. They ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!” The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. The bears jumped at the rock scratching it, but they could not climb it. The rock rose higher and higher, but the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed so high up into the sky that they became stars. These seven stars are the grouping we now call the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, and the marks left from the clawing of the bears is still visible on the rock.
Devil's Tower was actually caused by an intrusion of igneous (volcanic) rock into sedimentary rock. Hexagonal columns formed as the lava cooled, and the Tower, originally below the surface, was revealed as the surrounding soft rock eroded. As the hexagons weathered and broke apart, the "claw marks" were formed from the columns still attached to the Tower. The pieces of rock that have fallen can be seen piled high at the base of the Tower.
The Tower remains a sacred place for many Native American tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Shoshone, and Sioux. These tribes still conduct religious ceremonies at the Tower, and are allowed to leave small "prayer bundles" on the trees -- strips of cloth, often shaped in a vague human-like form. The bundles are never open or removed, so the contents remains unknown (they are, however, rumored to be sage and tobacco).
Devil's Tower is also a premier rock climbing location, and conflicts between the Native Americans and climbers have arisen. The Native Americans see the climbers and their bolts, ropes, and debris as sacrilegious; the climbers see the Tower as a National Monument that should be available to all the people. As a compromise, climbers are requested to avoid climbing Devil's Tower during the month of June, which is reserved for the most sacred of ceremonies.
Perhaps Devil's Tower most notable contemporary claim to fame is from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where it served as the location of the mother ship's landing site -- although the runway, supposedly located behind Devil's Tower, was actually filmed in an airplane hanger in Mobile, Alabama.