Democrats support a new name for sacred peak in Black Hills

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

Democrats in South Dakota are joining the campaign to rename a sacred peak in the Black Hills.

Harney Peak is named for General William S. Harney, a cavalry officer who fought in several Indian wars. Tribal members object to the designation because Harney led a massacre at a Lakota encampment in 1855.

"On the morning of September 2, 1855, Harney’s forces found the Natives camped along Blue Water Creek," historian Eric Zimmer, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa and a research fellow at the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies on the Pine Ridge Reservation, said in a press release. "Tribal leaders again attempted peace, but Harney ordered an attack that killed eighty-six Lakotas, more than forty of whom were women and children. Aided by two Howitzer machine guns, the soldiers launched their assault then pursued on horseback.”

To end the negative association, Basil Brave Heart, an elder of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, proposed to change the name to Black Elk Peak in honor of Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man who died in 1950. The Pennington County Democratic Party passed a resolution on Tuesday to support the designation.

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

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is reviewing Brave Heart's proposal. Comments are due September 30.

"The summit is one of the most holy sites of the Lakota," the board's review list states. "Early each spring at the summit, the Lakota hold ceremonies known as Yate Iwakicipi or 'welcoming back the thunders,' in which they pray for rain, help, and strength."

Comments can be submitted via e-mail to or to the following address:
US Board on Geographic Names
Domestic Names Committee
523 National Center
Reston, VA 20192-0523

The peak is also known as "Hinhan Kaga" in the Lakota language. The name translates to "Place of Owls," according to Delphine Red Shirt, who is Oglala Sioux.

Related Stories
Delphine Red Shirt: Restore Black Hills peak to its rightful name (8/3)
Lakota Country Times: Name board caves to non-Native pressure (7/13)
Editorial: Every place had a Lakota name before settlers arrived South Dakota board won't back name change for sacred peak (7/1)
Native Sun News: County resists name change for sacred peak (6/25)
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)

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