Monday, September 5, 2016

‘Close Encounters’ Wyoming landing zone may hold lessons for us today

By Steve Hammons

In the 1977 movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," with its amazing ending at Devils Tower, Wyoming, there were references to real situations.

For example, the police chase across the Ohio-Indiana state line early in the film resembled actual incidents in that region. 

And interestingly, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is also located near the Ohio-Indiana border in southwestern Ohio. That base is home to an Air Force foreign technology research center and closely associated with the alleged "Roswell incident" and subsequent research. 

In "Close Encounters" the clandestine logistics and security operation at Devils Tower was facilitated by U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets). In real life, some of their specialties are covert and unconventional operations. Army Special Forces also works in roles to establish rapport with indigenous populations and provide training. 

But is there more about Devils Tower that we can learn? 


Native American Indians had a very different name for the unusual geological formation known as Devils Tower.

To the Lakota and Cheyenne, it was called “Bear Lodge,” “Grizzly Bear Lodge,” or “Bear Lodge Butte.” The Cheyenne and Crow also referred to it as “Bear’s House” or “Bear’s Lair.” It was also called “Bear’s Tipi” by the Cheyenne and Arapaho. To the Kiowa, it was “Tree Rock.” 

How did Native American names associated with a bear lodge become “Devils Tower?” It is believed that an interpreter in an 1875 expedition in the area misunderstood the Indian words and translated them as “Bad God’s Tower” which was later changed to “Devil’s Tower,” and eventually to “Devils Tower” (no apostrophe). 

President Theodore Roosevelt declared the huge rock formation a U.S. National Monument in 1906. Today, the entire monument area includes 1,347 acres. 

Interesting legends and folklore about the site may also hold clues about more subtle connections at Devils Tower or Bear Lodge. 

A Lakota tale reportedly describes six Lakota girls picking flowers there when they were chased by bears. The Great Spirit helped the girls by raising the ground under them. The distinctive vertical striations of the rock were made when the bears tried to climb it but slid down, leaving huge scratch marks, according to this legend. 

A Kiowa story is similar. Seven girls playing were chased by large bears. To escape, the girls climbed a rock and prayed to the Great Spirit for help. Answering the girls’ prayers, the Great Spirit caused the rock to rise to the heavens, saving the girls as the bears tried to climb the rock, leaving their claw marks. 

As the girls reached the uppermost realms of the sky, they became the star constellation the Pleiades. This star system is sometimes associated with extraterrestrial visitors in more modern cases. 

There is another legend about several boys escaping a bear, praying to the Creator for help, being raised up on the rock and escaping back to their village with the help of an eagle.


When Army Special Forces, scientists, technicians, defense and intelligence officials, and the mysterious 12-person team infiltrate the Devils Tower or Bear Lodge region in "Close Encounters," can we make any connections to this Native American Indian lore? 

Many Indian tribes have oral histories about unusual visitors or beings of many kinds. In some legends, the visitors come from far away in the skies. In others, certain beings are native to Earth, or live nearby, and are part of the mysteries of Nature and reality. 

Even now, there are many reports of mysterious phenomena in Indian Country. And, Native American perspectives can be helpful to learn about. 

As we know, there is a troubling history of conflicts with Native American tribes over centuries as Europeans landed, conquered, took land, enslaved and destroyed or nearly destroyed native societies and cultures. 

When the United States was formed and European colonists became "Americans," regional militias and federal army troops often did the same. 

For example, in the case of the Cherokee, their ancient homeland in the Appalachian Mountain region stretched from Tennessee and North Carolina to Georgia and Alabama. Starting in the 1700s, there was a large degree of intermarriage with Scottish, Scots-Irish and Anglo explorers and settlers, resulting in the millions of Americans today who have Cherokee DNA within them. 

But this did not help the Cherokee when in 1838 men, women, children and the elderly were forced at gunpoint and bayonet point from their homes and farms into prison camps, their land stolen, and marched to Oklahoma on the terrible and deadly “Trail of Tears.” Many mixed-ethnicity Cherokee were reportedly able to avoid this removal by self-identifying as white. 

Their experience parallels the history of many other tribes in some ways, yet is quite different in other ways. 

Today, some researchers advise us to consider the experience of Native Americans who faced a visitation or invasion of technologically superior “aliens” from England, France, Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

Could Earth humans dealing with advanced beings from elsewhere experience a fate similar to that of Native American tribes? 

Maybe we can take another look at "Close Encounters" in light of the history of Bear Lodge or Devils Tower. That location may serve as a way to explore the many lessons about connections between American history, humanity and Nature.