The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names meets at 1:30 p.m. CDT today at the DOT commission room at 700 E. Broadway Avenue. The big item on the docket is the proposed name change for Harney Peak, which the board moved last month to rename “Hinhan Kaga (Making of Owls).”
Hey, board members: we’re going to get rid of the parentheses, right?
The Rapid City Journal raises doubt about the accuracy of the application of that Lakota name to South Dakota’s highest peak:
…Aaron Desersa, of Manderson on the Pine Ridge Reservation, told the Journal in a recent interview that “Hinhan Kaga” is the Lakota name for the Needles formations and Cathedral Spires and their owl-shaped formations in the Black Hills, not Harney Peak.
Desersa said he is a keeper of an oral tradition that includes a different name for Harney Peak. Judging by his pronunciation and a Lakota-English dictionary, that name would apparently be written as “He Winchinchala Sakowin Hocokata,” which would translate to something like “Center of the Seven Sister Mountains” in English [Seth Tupper, “‘Hinhan Kaga’ Disputed as Traditional Peak Name,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.28].
Given that state officials say they can’t pronounce “Hinhan Kaga”, the chances that the Board on Geographic Names will adopt “He Winchinchila Sakowin Hocokata” are likely nil. But scroll to the bottom of RCJ’s “dispute” story, and you’ll see that Desersa wants Harney taken off the peak:
Desersa said the most important thing is to take Harney’s name off the peak. He views the placement of Harney’s name atop South Dakota’s tallest mountain as a symbol of white America’s historical efforts to subjugate Native Americans.
“That name is degrading to all the Indian tribes,” Desersa said [Tupper, 2015.06.28].
We’ll see this afternoon if Board on Geographic Names can buck some stiff public backlash and make a positive change for white-tribal relations in South Dakota.