Rename Harney Peak? How about Terry and Custer?

Harney Peak
Harney Peak… or Hehaka Sapa Peak?

I love Harney Peak. I’ve been to South Dakota’s highest point maybe a dozen times. Every time at the the top, with friends, with my eager and sturdy six-year-old, or by myself, is a thrill. Particularly thrilling was a hike when I climbed through evening clouds, looked down from the top deck of the fire tower, and could see nothing but the red sun burning on a deck of clouds rushing into the mountain below me… which created the terrifying impression that the mountain was flying through a sea of Apocalypse.

Given how rarely I get to enjoy the mountain, Harney Peak figures with remarkable prominence in my sense of the Black Hills and South Dakota. The idea of changing the mountain’s name thus throws me for a momentary loop. But as Bob Mercer reports, the South Dakota Board of Geographical Names is considering replacing “Harney” to erase the name of one more white conqueror from the occupied Hills and more appropriately recognize the culture and history of the Lakota people who hold those Hills sacred.

General William Harney waged war on the Plains Indians, earning the name “Woman Killer” in the punitive Battle of Ash Hollow. As a replacement, the board is considering Black Elk, the Lakota holy man made famous by John Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks.

But if we are to do any small justice in this simple renaming, should we not use Hehaka Sapa, the name Black Elk’s people called him, rather than our English term?

And if we change Harney Peak, must we also change Terry Peak, and Custer Peak, and the whole town of Custer itself? Should we revert Mount Rushmore, larkishly named for a visiting New York lawyer and tin-mine specualtor, to its Lakota name of Six Grandfathers?

A good friend who climbed Harney Peak with me under full pack named his dog Harney. Whatever happens, he doesn’t plan to rename his pooch. Perhaps our Lakota neighbors would take some heart knowing that the biggest thing bearing that one white colonizer’s name in South Dakota is my friend’s dog.


49 Responses to Rename Harney Peak? How about Terry and Custer?

  1. Paul Seamans

    Maybe we could satisfy both camps by keeping the Harney name but refer to it by the Indian interpretation of General Harney’s name and call it “Woman Killer’s Peak”.

  2. larry kurtz

    If they had had any balls, Black Hills Badlands and Lakes would have listened to me in 2005 to take the lead and co-name every geographical feature with its Lakota equivalent.

    Stupid state.

  3. mike from iowa

    Isn’t it taboo in some Native bands to mention the Native names of the dead? You can say their English names without offending the spirits,or so I have read.

  4. Just “Killer Peak” could put some fear of God in the more casual hikers to at least bring a jacket and water.

    Mike, good question. Larry, Roger, what’s the Indian practice on using the names of the dead for places?

  5. Nick Nemec

    What is the traditional Lakota name for the peak? I’m sure that is the name Black Elk and the Lakota of his generation knew the peak as.

  6. larry kurtz

    Well, Crow Peak was called Place Where the Crow Were Killed: bringing weight to a history before 1750 or so. So, there’s that.

  7. larry kurtz

    Found this:

    Journals, expeditionary reports, and newspaper accounts from Harney‟s exploration
    of the Hills in 1857, Raynold‟s in 1859, Custer‟s in 1874, and Jenney‟s in 1875 not only contain
    Lakota names for places now widely regarded as sacred, but some of them also include specific
    references to the spiritual activity connected with these places.

    http://www.nps.gov/wica/learn/historyculture/upload/-11C-13-Chapter-Thirteen-Sacred-Ground-Chronology-and-Contr.pdf

  8. The general consensus is that the tribes regarded the Hills as sacred but typically did not designate specific names for particular places. There are exceptions, such as Mato Paha (Bear Butte) on the edge of the Hills with a panoramic view of the whole range, and Pe’ Sla which I am told is regarded as the center of all that is sacred.
    Pe’ Sla was recently sold by its Anglo owners to a group representing numerous tribes. But to my knowledge, “Harney Peak” had no commonly used Lakota name. Black Elk makes some sense as the mountain is the most prominent feature of the surrounding Black Elk Wilderness.

  9. Roger Cornelius

    Cory and mike from iowa,

    I’m not aware of anything is wrong with mentioning the name of the dead in Lakota, in fact it is rather common place when you read obituaries. That is not to say other tribes may have different customs.

    Black Elk seems like a good name change, but I’d much prefer to piss off those rednecks in South Dakota and rename to peak to honor Russell Means.

  10. Bill Fleming

    Black Elk had a vision early in his life on the mountain and said a prayer at the end of it. If there is someone who had a more intimate and intelligent experience on that mountain, I’m not aware of it.
    If we name it after him, let his vision and his prayer come along with it. He wasn’t thinking just of himself or even just “his people.” He was thinking about all of us.
    http://www.context.org/iclib/ic40/blackelk/

  11. I like to think that old ways of doing the right things are still important, especially today. Here is a recipe for a cure that was done simply 1000 years ago. Some tend to think of the ways of our ancestors as something full of myths and mysticism. I tend to think otherwise. This cure has many possibility’s and you can grow the stuff in your backyard. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-32117815

    Think of the cures we could now have here with what Native cultures used all those centuries ago for the ailments that not only plagued them, but did so with the rest of humanity as well. We have long lost them do to our ignorance. Maybe the name change will help in the reconciliation process, we can only hope. Custer and Terry Peak should be renamed also, their bigotry should not be praised.

  12. Perhaps we should rename a few Indian place names while we’re at it. You know, just the ones that killed people or showed some hint of bigotry. I’m just sayin…

    Pay Slaw goes back to Reynold’s Meadow. Crazy Horse carving/desecration will always be called Thunderhead Hill. Yankton needs a new name. How about Hunhoffville?

  13. Deb Geelsdottir

    A few years ago I lived in WI for 4 months. All kinds of things kept Indian names there: Oconomowoc, Waukesha (the most righty city in WI), Menominee, Tomah, Pewaukee, Mukwonago, and a long list more. MN is loaded with Indian names too: Minnesota (state and river), Minneapolis, Minnehaha Creek, Milaca, Nisswa, Bemidji and more.

    People in Wisconsin asked me about the Indian language place names (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota) in SD. I couldn’t think of any major places. SD seems to prefer naming places after those who killed native people.

    Interesting, don’t you think?

  14. Did you not think of Minnehaha County, Ms. Geelsdottir? Minneconjou creek? Oneida? The Bridge of Mo?

  15. Deb Geelsdottir

    There you go Grudz! Where is Minneconjou Creek? And the “Bridge of Mo?” Where is that?

  16. Deb Geelsdottir

    I think I found a couple more: Okobojo Creek and Lake Pocasse.

    Roger, are these native names?

  17. Isn’t Okoboji in Iowa, where Lederman runs businesses?

  18. In fact, the Ioway indians are from that area.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir

    There is a Lake Okoboji in Iowa, but there is an Okobojo Creek in SD that empties into the Missouri north of Pierre. Okobojo Point Recreation Area is north of the dam on the east side and just north of the much larger Cow Creek Rec Area.

  20. Cow creek must be named by white people while this Okobojo creek is named after the Okobojo indians. Telling about the cow one being much larger init?

  21. Deb Geelsdottir

    Yes it is.

  22. Paul Seamans

    According to an article in the “Native Sun News” the Lakota term for the peak is Hinyan Kaga. This meaning the making of owl. The rocks look like owls sitting. This is a term that we could all learn to remember and pronounce with little effort. I vote for this name for the peak, Hinyan Kaga Peak.

  23. mike from iowa

    If I had a vote,I would vote with Paul S.

  24. I vote for the indian words that mean “Cow Creek Peak”
    It will confuse people and make them ask about cows and creeks, and the dyslexic will think it’s a brewery in Spearditch, right Mr. kurtz?

  25. Deb Geelsdottir

    I’m with Paul too. It sounds like Inyan Kara. Is that right? Isn’t that just over the line in WY, west of Belle?

  26. Inyan Kara is south of Sundance, if my old noggin serves. It’s a nubbin of a hill that George S. Custer carved his name into to top of, using naught but his fingernails and teeth.

  27. George Sarmstrong Custer.

  28. Bill Fleming

    Everything I’ve found says that Hinyan Kaga Paha is pretty much untranslatable. Also that “owl” and “ghost” are the same word. Also that Hinyan Kaga might actually be Castle Peak. The link Larry provided above (history of Wind Cave) is quite good from a non-tribal historical research perspective. Interesting stuff, indeed. One thing is pretty clear. Harney never went up there.

  29. larry kurtz

    Inyan Kara is home to one of the oldest quarries in North America: chert from the site was flaked by the Clovis people before they even reached Clovis and centuries before the ancestors of the Lakota settled in North Carolina.

  30. Deb Geelsdottir

    Fascinating Larry. Thanks for the info.

  31. larry kurtz

    Deb: the access to Inyan Kara is closely guarded by Wyoming ranchers whose land one must cross to hike the peak. Damned frustrating!

  32. Deb Geelsdottir

    Is it an archeological site? There must not be any public access at all. That really does stink!

  33. Lar, back in my day those ranchers would let swell enough fellows like me hike up there. I’d say it’s more like a little Devil’s Tower inside a large hogback with easy access to the inner valley from the north.

  34. I used that google page to summon up a picture of the carvings and it had this blogging link to the whole thing. Pictures are there. Put this in the “address bar” of your computer and then press the key to go there. http://www.summitpost.org/inyan-kara-mountain/539099

  35. mike from iowa

    I wonder how these people learned chert was a type of flint that could be chipped precisely?

  36. They tried to eat it. Tasted bad.
    They tried to smoke it. Wouldn’t burn.
    They threw it at the ground in disgust and it cut a young woman’s left foot. They knew it could be sharp.

  37. larry kurtz

    food and reproduction, people: sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.

  38. Deb Geelsdottir

    Thanks for the links, Grudz and Larry.

  39. grudsnick=racist. that would be an accurate translation, correct? or is it just red neck? will be interested in reading his formal comment to the geo. name board. who was your military ancestor in the black hills then, grudz? (17:45-your intentional disrespect of a sacred aspect of Lakota spirituality. kinda like, jesas fu*kin crist. cute, huh?)

    as mentioned previously here,in a diary of one of the officers at the blue water river, Harney is quoted as standing on the south bank of the platte river at midnight before the sneak attack, yelling at all his assembled troops-“They’re right up there, by God, the one’s that killed yer kin last year, and if yah don’t give it to ’em good, right now, you’ll have no excuse, every single last one of ’em! sons’ a bitches!!”

    This was the US Army officially getting revenge for the morman cow of 1854. Refusing to take horses or mules as compensation, Lt. Grattan opened fire killing Chief Conquering Bear, and the Brule’ village awaiting annuities on the Laramie River killed all 25 US Army attacking troops. This ignited the northern plains Indian wars through the last one, Wounded Knee, 1890.

    This is a fairly accurate historical account.

    a few days after the fight, a literate freighter came upon the scene and pretty much confirmed the midnight speech as relayed by other remaining troops, and wrote it in his journal as well.

    years later the geographer in Harney’s unit at the blue water came up with the idea of calling it Harneys Peak. He also journaled of the horrors of the cries and visuals of the wounded indian people, woman and children. Harney parleyed with Brule’ Chief Little Thunder out front near dawn after his infantry and cannons marched up the six mile jaunt from the platte. after an hour, Harney gave the chief a head start, then attacked. Harney clearly knew he was attacking 40 some lodges of Sicanjou and another 10 or so lodges of Oglalas nearby filled with civilians. They had no place to run, Harney knew, as his 200 calvary were hiding behind a small ridge behind both camps, blocking them. Once the calvary made its move, the Indians had no choice but to flee east and a running defense for some 5 miles lasted a short time with 86 Indian dead and 150 wounded.

  40. oh, somebody help me here-the eventual founder of the Omaha Herald, his name escapes right now, wrote a heavy editorial campaign castigating Harney for the atrocities he and his troops committed at the blue water. I have not been able to find the actual articles in print. history has a way of “cleansing” itself after conquest.

  41. Lonis Wendt

    As an amateur historian(SD Governors Award for History-2011) and a serious student of the Black Hills Gold Trails, Indian Trails and Military Trails, found mostly in western South Dakota, I offer the following opinion about the possible renaming of Harney Peak in the Black Hills of Dakota. This idea of renaming historically relevant landmarks appears to be an attempt at “political correctness” that tends to somehow inflict guilt emotions into the citizens of our state and allows a rewrite to our state’s history.

    Gen. Harney and his Command were among the earliest official expeditions to cross what is now South Dakota. He along with Lt. G.K. Warren(Army Topographer/explorer) braved the danger and hardships to bring their knowledge and expertise to this land and, their observations, summations and mapping were vitally important to the eventual settlement of western Dakota. Some of the bridges and crossing built by his troops were utilized during the gold rush years. Later, Gen. Harney was ordered to restore peace among the marauding Indian bands and to protect the builders and settlers. His encounters with these various bands sometimes ended in warfare, with devastating results. That is what war means….death and destruction. Harney also realized that the treaties between the government and the Indian nations were being ignored or violated and did his best to “mend fences” with the tribes. However, not the government, nor God himself, would have been able to stop the westward expansion and our eventual quest of the “Manifest Destiny.”
    I believe the tallest peak in South Dakota properly honors its namesake, Gen. Wm. Harney, a man who stood tall in the eyes of the Sioux as recorded in the following paragraph, taken from the Military History of Gen. William Harney:

    “William S. Harney retired from service 1 August 1863, and he was made Brevet Major General, 13 March 1865, for long and faithful service. He died 9 May 1889, in Orlando, Florida. He was well-liked by many Indian Nations for he tried, although in vain, to have the Indians treated fairly, and consistently urged Congress to honor past treaties with the Indians. After his retirement, he was recalled to service of his country to work on various Indian Commissions. After his death the Sioux changed his name from Man-who-runs-like-the-Deer to one of which he would have been very proud, “Man-who-kept-his-word”.”

  42. Mr. Wendt, thank you for that historical perspective. I’m open to debate, and I hope the Board of Geographical Names will be as well.

    I will quarrel with your historical analysis on one point: the claim that our conquest of this land was inevitable feels like a cheap excuse. Our invasion was not some volcanic eruption or blizzard for which no human bears guilt and to which no institution could have raised a barrier to protect the occupants of the land. Our invasion was our choice, facilitated by our government and our military. Even if we extend your position and hypothesize that government officials might have wanted to stop the invasion and protect the integrity of Indian land, you must still confront the fact that each individual traveler of the Oregon Trail, each homesteader, each gold rusher, each one of our invading ancestors bear responsibility for the conquest which we now think gives us leave to name hills and streams here whatever we want.

    On your citation of the Military History of Gen. William Harney:

    1. Who wrote that text?
    2. When was it written?
    3. Are today’s Indians using that latter name for General Harney?
  43. uh, Harney Peak’s Lakota name is “Hinhan Kaga” or the place of owls: it was made higher than Odakota Mountain by white people with concrete.

  44. Please get your comments in to :

    david.reiss@state.sd.us

    by may 1, 2015.

    Lonis-read Harney’s exploits in Florida against the Seminoles and numerous other tribes there. Note the hangings. Harney’s exploits in Mexico. Note the hangings. Harney was hardly one of the 1st in the Black Hills area. He came to the hills purely to put down the Indian after the Morman Cow was was killed. Gratten and Harney kicked off the real Plains Indian wars. The strategy was attack any Indians. History writers at the time tended to make whites saints and Indians devils. I am all for good historical research. The Omaha Herald carried on a public, documented anti-Harney campaign after the Blue Water. Try and find that in our white version of “history”.

  45. enlightening reading. Valandra’s (4.17.15) is perhaps the best, lampert’s (custer county commissioners saying “the ‘lesson’ from the past should be left as is….”) the worst (emphasis added).

    http://www.sdbgn.sd.gov/

    Public Comments:

    Request for Name Change (Harney Peak)
    Harney Peak Public Comments received prior to March 16, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 17-20, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 20-23, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 23-24, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 25-27, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 28-April 2, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 2-7, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 8, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 9, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 9-12, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 12-20, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 20-22, 2015
    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 22-27, 2015

  46. this is a continuing comment process hopefully culminating in renaming Harney peak. Note the Laurette Pourier 5.01.2015 comment raising the PTSD consequences all you war vets may appreciate, while you are defending the actions Gen Harney carried out in fulfilling his “duty”.

    He was so duty bound previously that in mexico city, he hung 29 Irish soldiers for treason on the battlement walls so the enemy had full view of Harney’s disciplinarian action. Then he had his surgeon deliver one more to be hung, a wounded Irishman with no limbs, because “by god, I was ordered to hang 30 prisoners and by god that’s what I am going to do”.

    comments continue thru June 20, 2015 I believe. thus far these have been received in writing by the state. http://www.sdbgn.sd.gov/reports.aspx

    ***

    Public Comments:

    Request for Name Change:

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 27-29, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 30, 2015, Part 1

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 30, 2015, Part 2

    Harney Peak Public Comments received May 1-6, 2015

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 1

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 2

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 3

    Public Comments:

    Request for Name Change (Harney Peak)

    Harney Peak Public Comments received prior to March 16, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 17-20, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 20-23, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 23-24, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 25-27, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received March 28-April 2, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 2-7, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 8, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 9, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 9-12, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 12-20, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 20-22, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 22-27, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 27-29, 2015

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 30, 2015, Part 1

    Harney Peak Public Comments received April 30, 2015, Part 2

    Harney Peak Public Comments received May 1-6, 2015

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 1

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 2

    Harney Peak Written Public Comments Received at Public Meetings, Part 3

  47. I believe change would be wonderful! Why keep a name that stood for such awfulness against any women? Every state in the U.S. had natives who inhabitated their area in their own states firstly. If it were white people or other non native races that did, it would be different? I know there are racists comments-but we only want credit for our roots.