Native Sun News: County resists name change for sacred peak

The following story was written and reported by Richie Richards, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

County commissioners, from left to right: Ron Buskerud, Nancy Trautman, Lyndell Petersen, Deb Hadcock and George Ferebee. Photo from Pennington County

Pennington County Commissioners resist Harney Peak name change
Chairman Lyndell calls political correctness ‘an exercise in futility’
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY –– Whether to change the name of Harney Peak to Hinhan Kaga was on the floor of the Pennington County Commissioner’s last week.

Item 16 on the Pennington County Commissioners Meeting Agenda was “Harney Peak Name Change”, an item added to the agenda by Glen Lakner for public comment.

After a brief introduction during the Meeting, Lakner a Korean War veteran and Pennington County resident, expressed his desire to exercise one of the freedom’s “General Harney… fought 45 years for in the military.” He was referring to William S. Harney for whom Harney Peak is named.

During his freedom of speech presentation Lakner made his argument in favor of not changing the name of Harney Peak by presenting to the Commissioners his opinion of spending tax payers’ money to pay for the name change. Secondly, he is a supporter of the efforts of the military through the past and present.

“When you have a group of people, whatever they are, that keep a history record verbally uh, you’re gonna have things added and subtracted… And if you’re talking about a vision, they talk about a vision. They talk about a dream. Well when I pick up my fishing rod, I have a dream, I have a dream I’m gonna catch… a fish. So I don’t put too much confidence in dreams and that. And I just feel they are gauging this on kind of a ridiculous thing.”

Lakner was referring to the oral history of local Native American tribes and to Nicholas Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota spiritual leader, whose vision story is told in John Neihardt’s “Black Elk Speaks.”

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

He claims that the county is “bending over backwards” for the tribes. He made reference to a fire on Bear Butte which he said was “started by tribes” when they had a lot of camp fires there.

After complaining about spending money on the name change, on fire suppression, personnel, and signs for name change, Lakner feels the county should not be responsible for that.

He feels the tribes should help to pay for some of the costs, but that Pennington County should not trust the tribes as they “seem like they kind of have a way of weaseling their way around stuff” when it comes to financial responsibilities, according the Lakner.

After his public tangent against the name change of Harney Peak, Lakner asked for support from the County Commissioners.

Commissioner Ron Buskerud said, “We probably should make a decision. It’s a tourism county and that’s a big tourist attraction (Harney Peak). We have a stake in this thing…”

Referring to something he read recently, Buskerud quotes, “’This country is politically correcting itself to death.’ And I think there is some truth to that.”

Two others approached the podium for public comment supporting Lakner’s argument.

One Rapid City resident, Larry Baker, approached the podium, “Well you can call me a racist or whatever, but they lost the war. So let’s just leave it the way it is… you mentioned the deal about losing their land or whatever. Uh, in the Constitution it says, no ex post facto law shall be passed, so if they were there before they passed it, they can take that rule and put it where the sun don’t shine,” he said defiantly.

Before the last of three public comments, Chairman Lyndell Petersen said, “I would comment that I’m old and lazy. And I’m too old and lazy to spend much time trying to be politically correct; cause no one has defined politically correct for me, yet. And so, I think this is uh, an exercise in futility, really.”

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

Commissioner Deb Hadcock argued that politicians should stay out of the politics of voting for the name change and that it should be left up to the people to decide. Hadcock brought forth a “motion to acknowledge the public comments,” which was not voted on.

A substitute second motion was presented by George Ferebee, to send a letter to the state, that “we at the Pennington County Commission would like to leave things as, as they are.”

This motion was voted on and 4 of 5 voted “yes” for the motion to write to the state in support of keeping the name of Harney Peak the same. Deb Hadcock voted “no.”

Political correctness is a modern term and can be defined as “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”

As a civic leader of Rapid City and Pennington County, Petersen’s remarks were viewed by some Native American residents of Rapid City as avoiding the recent “Renewed Year of Reconciliation” proclaimed by Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker and Mayor Elect Steve Allender.

This Commissioners Meeting is available on their website at

(Contact Richie Richards at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Related Stories:
Tribal members support new name for sacred Black Hills peak (4/30)
Delphine Red Shirt: Restoring our sacred peak to its original name (4/17)
Native Sun News: Ceremony welcomes return of spiritual beings (3/31)
Lakota Country Times: Efforts to rename sacred peak ramp up (3/30)
Richard Iron Cloud: Remove murderer's name from sacred peak (03/26)
Charles Trimble: Rename peak in Black Hills for Oglala holy man (09/23)

Join the Conversation