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Native Sun News: Indian lawmakers seek new name for county

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

South Dakota Rep. Kevin Killer (D)

Legislators move to rename Shannon County
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

PINE RIDGE –– Two Shannon County officials are pressing forward with a signature drive that, if successful, will allow voters living in Shannon County to vote to rename the county.

“I think the biggest thing look back at history and see who lived here and who Peter Shannon was and there is a need to change it,” said Kevin Killer, state representative for Shannon County. “There is also value in creating and using our own names for some of these things for future generations to learn from.”

Kevin Killer a three term South Dakota legislator and Oglala Sioux Tribal member, and Shannon County commissioner Anna Takes the Shield-Diaz, who is also a tribal member, are proposing changing the name to Oglala Lakota County. The two are joined by Andrew Iron Shell a community member living in the county. The three have taken to the community in attempt to raise the necessary amount of signatures to put the proposal on November’s ballot.

Shannon County is one of five counties in South Dakota that sits within the sovereign boundaries of a tribal nation and supporters of the name change see this as an opportunity to choose a name that is more closely related to the population living there.

“Peter Shannon was the one who laid the groundwork for the Dawes Act. He set on a commission that went as far as recruiting the signatures of 5 year olds in order to pass an agreement on lands. The commission’s findings were presented to Henry Dawes and helped shape the idea behinds the Dawes Act,” said Killer. “When there is that level of atrocity associated with the history there is a need to make a change.”

Native Sun News publisher Tim Giago said, “20 years ago I wrote an editorial suggesting that Shannon County’s name should be changed. I recommended changing it to honor one of our great chiefs like Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, American Horse or Bull Bear, but the Tribal Council at that time never took up the idea. I am glad to see Kevin Killer step forward with this idea because it is long past due.”

Peter C. Shannon was born in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, in 1821 and died in San Diego, California, in 1899. During the second half of the 19th century Shannon would serve as Chief Justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court and would also be appointed by President Chester A. Arthur to a commission responsible for negotiating land deals with the Lakota Nation. Shannon would negotiate a deal with tribes in 1883 that would have ceded lands to the federal government but the agreement was never ratified by Congress. He was also the presiding judge in the trial of Jack McCall for the killing of Wild Bill Hickok. The guilty verdict in the case resulted in the Dakota Territory's first legal hanging.

In order to get the proposal on to November’s ballot those petitioning must gather the signatures of at least 15% of registered voters in the county. Although this number is roughly 1160 the group hopes to have at least 1500 signatures in support of the vote.

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Copyright permission Native Sun News

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