Lakota Country Times: Efforts to rename sacred peak ramp up

The following story was written and reported by Tom Crash, Lakota Country Times correspondent. For more news, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times. All content © Lakota Country Times.

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

Efforts to change name of Harney peak ramp up
By Tom Crash
Times Correspondent

HE SAPA – “We’ve opened a 45 day comment period where individuals may make their voice heard on the initiative to change the name of Harney Peak in the Black Hills to Black Elk Peak,” said Myron Pourier, past fifth member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and director of the Black Elk Development, “in this comment period, those interested may make comments up to May 1 by sending a letter to SD Geographical Board of Names, sign a petition that is being circulated across Indian Country or go online to and make a comment.”

The initiative came together when Pourier, the great great grandson of Black Elk met with Basil Brave Heart in September of 2014. Brave Heart, 81 and a Korean vet, has committed himself to the initiative, he works with a variety of church groups throughout the region.

"We contacted news media like KEVN and KOTA, we circulated petitions during the Lakota Language Summit and got the word out all across the state and to nine tribes of the Great Sioux Nation," added Pourier.

“We met Paul Stover Soderman, a seventh generation grand-nephew of Gen. William Henry, at Ft. Laramie,” said Pourier, “he was totally in favor of the idea, wanted to help in any way he could, he wrote a letter of support.”

“Basil Brave Heart and I developed a friendship while attending school at Holy Rosary/Red Cloud, the highest point east of the Rockies should not be named for Harney but for the Oglala Holy Man Black Elk, the peak was central to the great dream of Black Elk, I’m very honored to help,” said Paul Stover Soderman, “there are two places offensive to the history of the tribes, Custer and Harney – Harney should not be the name of a sacred pinnacle in a sacred area, Gen. William S. Harney led the punitive campaign of 1855 against the Sioux and was responsible for a massacre at Blue Water Creek, this is an injustice with no bounds, there is no statute of limitations to this atrocity; as Black Elk said from the peak, I was seeing in a sacred manner the shape of all things in the spiritand shapes of all shapes as they must live together.”

As part of the process, five open meetings or hearings need to be held across the state. "It’s like another comment period," said Pourier.

The first meeting is at 5:30 pm in Martin on April 28, on the 29th, meetings will take place in Custer at 1:30pm and in Rapid City at 7pm; on May 5, a meeting will be held in Flandreau at 4:00pm and on May 7 at 1:30 pm in Pierre.

A second comment period will run 30 days from May 15 through June 14. A board meeting will be held the last week of June in Pierre to prepare all of the material from the comment periods, open meetings and the SD Geographical Names office. The organized material will be sent to the U.S. Board of Geographical Names on July 1.

“This is something that is do-able,” said State Senator Jim Bradford, “I’m going to get with the SD Geographical Names Board and I’d be willing to introduce a resolution in next year’s legislative session.”

“This is a very good initiative,” said Mike Her Many Horses, tribal council representative from Wounded Knee district, “we need to get national media involved in this issue, there has been precedent set in the southwest and other parts of Indian Country.”

"Sure there will be negative comments but this is about improving cultural understanding, it’s everything to do about the mountain, about the spirituality of the Black Hills, we want a peaceful transition built on respect," added Pourier. "We are asking people to go to the website and submit a comment, to attend one of the public hearings or to sign a petition and we’re doing this on our own, those interested and able could donate as well on the website."

“We have people all across the state working on this,” said Pourier, “this is something really positive that all of us can come together on, work together for a positive change.”

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