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Native Sun News: Black Elk Peak honors sanctity of Black Hills site

Black Elk Peak in South Dakota. Photo by Patrick Slaven

Black Elk Peak, a name that honors
U.S. Board on Geographic Names changes Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor

BLACK HILLS –– Jetting above the landscape of He Sapa (Black Hills) is a sacred mountain where the Lakota welcome back the Wakinyan Oyate (Thunder Beings), an ancient celestial ceremony that takes place each year during the Spring Equinox.

Now the highest peak east of the Rockies will enjoy a new name, a name that honors the indigenous people who’ve worshipped here for centuries, Black Elk Peak.

Since 1896 this sacred place officially bore the name of a man who was responsible for the brutal slaughter of Lakota men, women and children in the Battle of Ash Hollow in September 1855, U.S. General William S. Harney. Harney was said to be involved in many frontier conflicts between 1818 and 1863, including wars with the Black Hawk, the Sauk, the Seminoles, the Lakota Sioux, and Tribes in Texas.

On August 11, U.S. Board on Geographic Names, by unanimous vote, changed the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak to honor Lakota Sioux Holy Man Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950).

Basil Brave Heart, an Oglala Lakota and Korean War veteran spearheaded the movement for the name change. In October of 2014 he submitted a proposal to U.S. Board of Geographic Names asking that the name of Harney Peak be officially changed to Black Elk Peak.

Black Elk was a revered Lakota holy man whose life story was chronicled in John G. Neihardt’s book, “Black Elk Speaks.” The book includes an account of Black Elk’s vision where he describes this place as the center of the world. Black Elk is credited with reviving the sacred ceremonies brought to the Lakota Oyate by Pte San Win (Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman), especially the Sun Dance and the Inipi (the sweat lodge) ceremonies.

According to the BGN, only two official name change proposals were submitted, Black Elk Peak and Thunder Peak.

Read the rest of the story on the all-new Native Sun News website: Black Elk Peak, a name that honors

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at editor@nsweekly.com)

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