Editorial: Every place had a Lakota name before settlers arrived

The following is the opinion of the Native Sun News Editorial Board. All content © Native Sun News.

A view of Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Photo from BHrock / Wikipedia

Every river, lake and mountain had a Lakota name before the settlers arrived
By Native Sun News Editorial Board

The suggestion by Basil Brave Heart that the name of Harney Peak be changed to Black Elk Peak has brought out the worst form of bigotry by those opposed to the name change and just as bad the ones doing the most complaining do not even know the history of the Sacred He Sapa or of Western South Dakota.

The man for whom the peak was named did slaughter Lakota men, women and children and the dissenters say, “Well, the Lakota killed many white settlers also,” as if that justifies the murders committed by General Harney.

There is a big difference. First of all Harney killed innocent Lakota because he was trying to clear the land of the indigenous people and to protect the settlers who had invaded the lands of the Lakota. That’s right, there is a major difference. The Lakota killed because they were defending their lands and people against the invaders. Not a single settler or soldier would have been killed if they had not been trespassing on the private lands of the Lakota.

If the settlers wanted to live in peace and safety all they had to do was to stay off of the lands of the Great Sioux Nation. But greed pushed them on to the lands where they did not belong.

All of those white people screaming the loudest should understand that every hill, road, river, lake and mountain already had a name before they invaded the lands of the Sioux. It was they who came upon these lands and arrogantly changed the names to fit their ideas and language.

Brave Heart suggested that the peak be renamed Black Elk Peak and that was a good suggestion because Black Elk is oftentimes referred to as the 5th face on Mount Rushmore. Others suggested Hinhan Kaga or the Making of Owls and that seemed to set off a furor among the white folks.

A pilgrimage to the highest point in He Sapa (Black Hills) to welcome back the Wakinyan Oyate (Thunder Beings). Photo by Jeremy Vance / Native Sun News

First of all they found the name “impossible to pronounce,” and therefore irrelevant. And then as always seems to happen among the Lakota, some Lakota challenged the name Hinhan Kaga with various explanations as to why that was not truly the original name of the mountain.

We believe that the name suggested by Basil Brave Heart was a great choice and Black Elk Peak would add to the majesty of the Black Hills and not detract from it. Remember that Elizabeth Cook-Lynn ran into a web of insults and furor when she suggested that a place in Halley Park be set aside where some of the great Lakota and Dakota innovators and leaders could be honored by having their statues placed in this special place.

The arguments by the dissenters, for the most part, were clearly prejudicial, but more than that, ridiculous. Thanks to a nearly united Rapid City Council the suggestion by Ms. Cook-Lynn took hold and her suggestion became a reality.

So it seems that new ideas presented by Native Americans will always be looked upon unfavorably and those opposed to those ideas will fight tooth and nail to stop them just as they have in the case of changing the name of Harney Peak. The Rapid City Council and the mayor and mayor-elect passed an Executive Proclamation on June 15 calling for a “Renewed Year of Reconciliation,” a proclamation that received little support from our local daily newspaper.

It is high time to get behind this proclamation and make it work. The new mayor, Steve Allender and Lakota journalist Tim Giago were on KEVN’s Focus television show to talk about the prospects of a “Renewed Year of Reconciliation” on Sunday, July 5. See if the station can get you a copy of the show. News Director Jack Caudill has been one of the true boosters of good relations between Indians and whites.

(The Native Sun News Editorial Board can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News.

Another Opinion:
Lacie Louwagie : Employ ethics in dealing with Native concerns (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 7/13)

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