This 3,000-acre Eastern Montana rolling prairie park preserves the site of the June 17, 1876, battle between the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians and General Crook’s soldiers. The Northern Cheyenne from nearby Lame Deer view the Rosebud Battlefield as sacred ground and hold ceremonies at the site honoring the warriors and the soldiers who fought and died there. In addition to the historic battlefield site, there are many other archaeological remains there: a the Kobold family homestead site, a buffalo jump dating back to 3,000 B.C., petroglyphs (in the sandstone walls below the jump), tipi rings, eagle-catching pits, and rock cairns. The land became a state park in 1978.
A big issue at the Rosebud site is the threat of the battlefield's destruction because of potential coal mining:
When Rosebud Battlefield was established as a Montana state park in 1978, it fulfilled a 40-year-long dream of rancher Elmer E. “Slim” Kobold to protect this significant site. Today, that dream could be threatened by the prospect of coal bed methane development.
Kobold, originally from Oklahoma, homesteaded the historic battlefield and surrounding hills, bluffs, and grasslands in 1911. Over the years, he became fascinated with his property’s rich history and worked to preserve and protect the significant battlefield and Indian artifacts.
In addition to battle sites, rock cairns, petrified stumps, and tipi rings, the area contains a buffalo jump. Located near the park’s entrance, the jump’s use dates to 3,000 B.C. Archaeologists believe it had one of the highest densities of prehistoric cultural habitation of any buffalo jump in Montana.
The park has other values. For decades, U.S. military scholars have visited Rosebud to study the battle strategy used by both sides. And Native Americans, particularly the Northern Cheyenne, revere the area, performing ceremonies and making offerings to their forebears.
Kobold understood that these and other values made the battlefield worth protecting. When mining companies found a rich coal seam under Kobold’s property in the early 1970s, he began an intense letter-writing campaign and teamed up with FWP to get Rosebud Battlefield designated in the National Register of Historic Places. A few years later, with constant urging by the tough old cowboy, the Montana legislature agreed to preserve the site, appropriating money from the Coal Tax Fund to acquire a large portion of the battlefield.
Now a new type of development threatens to disrupt the historic site. Because FWP only owns the surface rights of the property, the battlefield could be developed for coal bed methane by private interests who own or lease mineral rights. Trucks, generators, compressor stations, pipelines, roads, noise, wastewater, and dust could envelop the historic battlefield.
Recently, FWP has been working to protect the historic battlefield and archaeological sites by meeting with various organizations such as the National Park Service, the Montana Preservation Alliance, and the mineral rights lesee.
A proposed management plan for historic Rosebud Battlefield State Park was drafted by Montana State Parks with help from consultants and an advisory committee. The proposed draft plan, which was open for public comments Oct. 11-Nov. 16, was located the FWP web page (www.fwp.mt.gov) as the Rosebud Battlefield Management Plan link.
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