The tower has carried many titles. The Lakota called it Bear Lodge, it was also called Bear’s Tipi, Home of the Bear, Tree Rock, and Grey Horn. In fact, more than 20 communities of people celebrate this sacred spot as an emblem to their cultural history in the area.
In 1875 Dick Dodge, a US Amy Colonel, was exploring the area. When his interpreter mistook a native translation, Dodge thought it was called Bad Gods Tower. This fumble quickly solidified as truth, thus it became and remains Devils Tower.
It's easy to imagine why this name might carry offense. In 2014, a proposal by the Oglala Sioux was submitted to formally change its name to Bear Lodge. The name could be legally changed by an act of congress or by a presidential proclamation.
Natives have lived the lands about the tower for thousands of years. The vicinity was rich in hunting. Potable springs flowed from the tower itself and the Belle Fourche river had fashioned a comfortable scene. Communities spent extended amounts of time at the tower amid their nomadic routes.
In the 1850s, new Americans began to blot the natives out. In the late 1800s American paintings and photographs gave fame to its presence. And in 1906, Teddy Roosevelt declared the tower the nations 1st national monument. He based this declaration on the scientific importance of the tower.
Much to the disapproval of contemporary natives, the tower has become a popular rock climbing spot. In an attempt to appease the disgust of natives, the park has allocated the month of June for the continuation oftheir cultural practices with minimal tourist interception. Park visitors are forbidden to climb the monolith for the full month.
The tower, as geologists explain it, is the center of a long-dead volcano. Over millions of years, the Belle Fourche's eroding waters have swept away the soft sedimentary rock once surrounding the tower. Geologists believe that the cooling and shrinking of molten rock as it hardened created the columnar look. As the remaining sedimentary base continues to erode the tower continues to grow.
A native legend explains the story differently--A story of children helped by buffalo, a flat rock, and a tree as they retreat from a bear:
As a group of kids flee from a pursuing bear, they ask a nearby buffalo herd to hinder the bear and facilitate their escape. In doing so, the children arrive atop a large flat rock. The rock asks that they pace 4 times around its perimeter and then stand on top. The children do as they're told. As the bear approaches, the flat rock rises high from the prairie earth. In a final energetic fury, the bear paws and claws into the rock creating the columnar furrows that can be seen today. In the end, a small tree rooted atop the rock pedestal asks the children to climb onto its perches. The kids obey and the tree grows high into the sky. A nighttime constellation still depicts the event in starry dots.