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DFP Poll: 60% Support Renaming Harney Peak “Hinhan Kaga”

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 9.00.48The latest Dakota Free Press poll finds strong but far from unanimous support for changing the name of South Dakota’s tallest peak. Out of 156 votes cast from June 18 to June 22, 60% of DFP readers said we should rename the mountain “Hinhan Kaga,” a Lakota phrase that may be translated as Ghost Owl Butte. 40% of you DFP devotees want to keep the mountain’s current name, Harney Peak, which honors General William S. Harney.

The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names took its last written comments from the public on the proposed name change on Saturday, June 20. Counting comments submitted since I counted last week, the sentiments expressed to the board continue to run strongly against the name change: looking just at those speaking on the above binary choice, 74% of comments support “Harney Peak.” Counting comments including multiple names (such as two online petitions), the split moderates to 58% for Harney Peak and 42% for Hinhan Haga.

Notably, the board last week received another 273 names speaking in favor of an earlier suggestion to rename the mountain “Black Elk Peak.” Heading one petition in favor of that name is Myron Pourier, who asks the board to name the mountain for his great-great-grandfather Black Elk. His letter accompanies a petition from 151 individuals. A November 3, 2014, resolution from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe appears to have 122 Web submissions (including David Soul again) calling for “Black Elk Peak.” The Board on Geographic Names passed a motion at its last meeting, on May 7, not to rename Harney Peak for an individual but instead to seek a traditional Lakota name.

The board meets Monday, June 29, in Pierre to discuss the comments it has received and decide whether to change the name of Harney Peak to Hinhan Kaga.

Here are some highlights from the comments posted by the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names since my last commentary on the mountain name change:

  • Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D-26A/Mission) supports the name change. “My children’s great, great, great grandma was shot and left for dead at the Battle of the Blue Water in Nebraska,” writes Bordeaux. His ancestor “survived to tell the story and carry on in spite of the experience that Harney and his men dealt the Lakota on the prairie that day.”
  • Rep. Jeff Partridge (R-34/Rapid City) weighs in against the name change, dismissing the proposed name change as a “contemporary whim,” echoing State Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen’s concern about preserving the state’s investment in the Harney Peak brand (reality check: how many people here or abroad think, “South Dakota? Oh yeah, that’s the state with Harney Peak!”?), and closing with an appeal to the slippery slope (“Is there an “end” to renaming a City, County, Creek or Symbol of some sort?”… because heavens forfend that the moment we do one right thing, we might end up doing a whole bunch more right things).
  • Dean and Karen Nelson of Murdo explicitly invoke the “slippery slope” and “respectively oppose the renaming of Harney Peak.”
  • Ward D. Yanders of Rapid City dismisses Partridge and Hagen’s frettings about tourist confusion as “bunk!” In response to GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler’s concern that the name change would “require significant costs associated with the changing of all the signs and publications,” Yanders notes that cost didn’t stop the Legislature from changing the state nickname from “The Sunshine State” to “The Mount Rushmore State” in 1992.
  • Ed Himrich of Custer says changing the name of the mountain is “lunacy.” General Harney was doing “his duty to his country” by killing Indians; if he hadn’t, “We wouldn’t today be able to express opinions about any subject.” Himrich tells the board, “This kind of thinking by you liberals is what makes South Dakota overly conservative.” I will agree with the overly conservative part.
  • Hoven science teacher Spencer Cody says renaming the mountain will confuse his fellow scientists, since the mountain gave us the name for the Harney Peak Granite formation, and over a century of scientific literature uses that name. Darn—I guess we can’t fight science.
  • Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Yufna Soldier Wolf proposes Xon-Nii-Na-Haw-Gaii—”White Ferret Mountains”—as an alternative. Watch the opponents go bonkers discussing pronunciation on that one.


  1. El Rayo X 2015-06-23 09:59

    Are you kidding me?!?!?!?!? I would have NEVER have voted for Hinhan Kaga if I would have known Xon-Nii-Na-Haw-Gaii was in the running. I call do overs.

  2. Paul Seamans 2015-06-23 10:03

    Tourism Sec. Jim Hagen should do a “tourist on the street” segment and ask what comes to mind when you think of Harney Peak. He’ll just get blank stares, most tourists have never heard of Harney Peak. Up until the past few months a lot of South Dakotans had probably never heard of it. But Heaven forbid that we start down that slippery slope and remove the revered name of Gen. Harney from that obscure mountain.

  3. rwb 2015-06-23 11:31

    I agree that it is flat out redickelise to take Harney’s good name off that mountain. After all, he was just doing his job, protecting us from all those Native Americans who were so clearly a threat to our freedom of speech.

    At a moment when responses like several above (including Partridge’s) would make great comedy, they just come up as flat-out scary because these people actually exist out there in La-La Land.

  4. Spencer 2015-06-23 11:36

    Evidently, several of your liberal bloggers decided to send in phony complaints from supposed uneducated, racist white rural folk. Does this mean that those who disagree with the name change can pretend to be uneducated, racist Natives too? Or, is that strategy hitting a little too close to home? One cannot help but laugh at the irony of this tactic.

  5. larry kurtz 2015-06-23 11:39

    ‘Spencer’ makes a good point: South Dakota is a racist hole.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-23 15:07

    “Donovan G. Wagner of Rapid City . . . IS REDICKELICE!”

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-23 16:26

    Wait a minute, Spencer: do you have evidence that any of the comments that I quote from those posted by the SDBGN are phony? If you’re going to make an accusation like that, you’re going to have to back it up. As far as I (or, apparently, the SDBGN) can tell, the comments sent to the board come from real people speaking sincerely.

  8. Dennis R Wagner 2015-06-23 16:49

    Cory- first of all, thanks for providing a forum for this name change proposal. I was one of the people who voted in your survey, and I voted “No”, as in, “Don’t rename Harney Peak Hinhan Kaga”. But that doesn’t mean I am unopen to re-naming the peak. The original proposal from the gentleman from Pine Ridge was for the peak to be re-named in honor of Nicholas Black Elk, and it seems there is substantial support from all corners of the state and country for such a name. Black Elk is and was a figure who successfully lived in our joint culture, a spiritual leader who incorporated both Lakota and Catholic practices and beliefs. The surrounding wilderness area is already named in his honor.

  9. grudznick 2015-06-23 18:50

    I’d rather it be renamed “Nicholas Peak” but if we called it Black Elk Peak then let us call it “Ben Black Elk Mountain” after Nicholas’ grandson, a swell fellow if you ever met one.

  10. leslie 2015-06-23 21:34

    grudz-spencer, spencer-grudz. you two will be very happy together.

    i asked you here previously spencer why you didn’t get the history right at grattan/blue water and greasy grass. was that intentional, ignorant, misled or what, as a science teacher of 7-12 grades?

    i am pretty sure Indians are pretty clear on their history as subjects of genocide. you seriously think that is a laughing matter? talk about “hitting a little TOO [sic] close to home.”

    btw, what are your thoughts on NOAA’s role substantiating global warming?

  11. Lynn 2015-06-23 21:56


    Wouldn’t your reasoning on this make this more difficult than what it really needs to be? You have Harney Peak Granite but couldn’t there be an asterisk pointing to a reference of the name change to the new updated and more appropriate name of “Hinhan Kaga” if that is what our Lakota friends prefer? Even change name of the rock formation?

    If you have a passion for history look at all the name changes that have occurred for territories, rivers and other entities over time.

  12. Spencer 2015-06-24 00:26

    Leslie, I would like to see your timeline concerning the Lakota’s supposed legitimate claim to the Black Hills. It would be great if they could substantiate something beyond generational hearsay and vague interpretations of winter counts. The Lakota spent centuries terrorizing neighboring tribes until someone more numerous and powerful showed up to knock them from their perch. The Lakota use white notrosities to cover up their own. The Lakota do not have any more of a claim to the Black Hills than any of the other people that lived their prior to them or after. A mountain in the Black Hills is being carved in the likeness of the Native equivalent of a Colonel Custer, and it is the non-Lakota that need to be undergoing some sort of racial sensitivity training for ignoring every little thing in this world one might find upsetting? As with rock formations, Madison Limestone is a rock formation found throughout the continent. Except in South Dakota where we call it Pahasapa Limestone, it is sad that science even needs to waste its breath explaining such arbitrary cultural sensitivities. And, yes, global warming exists. And, no, I don’t spend time fretting about it. The last time we had this much carbon in the atmosphere sea levels were 30 feet higher than what they are now. Gutting the U.S. economy isn’t going to save anyone, and I am not going to the cross for a hypothesis that will be an unavoidable, readily observable theory in a century anyways. This isn’t like disproving spontaneous generation and realizing germ theory of disease and evolution. This is more in line with recognizing one’s reality and coping with one’s inevitable doom.

  13. larry kurtz 2015-06-24 07:17

    Custer Peak should be the next to be restored to its Lakota name then Mount Rushmore, Crooks Tower, and Terry Peak.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-24 07:26

    Dennis, thanks for sharing your input with us and with the SDBGN. Like Myron Pourier and his many supporters, you make clear that there’s a difference between opposing “Hinhan Kaga” because you’d like to honor Black Elk personally and opposing a Lakota name out of visceral white anxiety.

    Spencer, the appeal to Lakota atrocities and the offensive attempt to equate white invader and imperialist tool Custer with Indian defender Crazy Horse dodge the issue. Naming the mountain Hinhan Kaga does not memorialize any specific person. There is a difference between naming a mountain for a committer of atrocities and giving a mountain a name in the language of a conquered people. If you want to respond to Wagner’s and Poruier’s call to name the mountain for Black Elk, then you’ll need to provide evidence that Black Elk himself committed atrocities as Harney did to establish your equivalency… and even then, the equivalency would not motivate a vote one way or the other; that equivalency would only negate atrocities as a voting issue, since apparently we’re all sinners. But to argue the point at hand, that we should keep the name of a committer of atrocities instead of giving the mountain a non-personal Lakota name, you’ll have to argue that use of the Lakota language itself, the language of those whom you accuse of committing atrocities, is worse than invoking the name of a person who committed atrocities… at which point we all need to stop saying “Gesundheit!”

    I’m also still waiting, Spencer, for either your evidence for your claim that the racist opponent statements are the product of a vast liberal conspiracy (akin to Himrich’s and other opponents’ silly blurtings that the South Dakota Board of Geographic Names is just a bunch of liberals) or your explicit retraction and apology to us liberals, who have much bigger and better plots to carry out than faking letters to the SDBGN. ;-)

  15. leslie 2015-06-24 19:06

    Got flooded out in the valley, the creek came up FAST between 5:30-6 a.m., so spencer cody [(1866 “spencer” repeating rifle) and wild bill “cody”, respecter of Indians], I will get back to you with a response.

    more importantly, perhaps is the slippery slope that SDDOT ADA Compliance Officer and SDGNB Chair June Hansen has hoisted her petard into, by conducting comment sessions thru-out SD, and then she formally wrote to assert her Department’s official position AGAINST the name-change. Conflict of interest, appearance of impropriety?? I believe I have these events correct. I await June’s response.

    We never heard from Spencer until AFTER the Board unanimously and preliminarily APPROVED of the name change but revised the proposal from Black Elk to Hinhan Kaga, I don’t think.

    Is the governor asserting his desire in this matter by having his cabinet and department heads like Historical Society, GFPs, DOT and Tourism, most of whom are on the SDGNB board, shoot the name change down as a part of the republican brand in the state?

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-06-24 22:03

    The people who had the Black Hills prior to the Lakota is irrelevant in this particular issue. Whites stole the Hills from the Lakota. If predecessors want to take issue with the Lakota, that’s their business, not SD’s.

    In addition, what Cory said.

  17. grudznick 2015-06-24 22:09

    Leonard Cohen, a swell Jewish fellow of my generation, who is a big favorite of my good friend Bob, would tell you “the war was lost, the treaties signed, nevermind.”

  18. leslie 2015-06-25 16:40

    June Hansen has denied speaking against on behalf of SDDOT. i will backtrack and retract my statement if necessary.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-06-25 17:03

    Understood, Leslie. Whatever the statement, get it on the record.

  20. leslie 2015-06-26 10:57

    latest from penn cty commissioners-public discussion by war vet supporting harney’s 45 yrs service. commission votes 6.25 (late comment?) against name change and political correctness, and tourism confusion 5/4. deb hadcock voted nay saying it is the people’s place, not the boards’, to comment.

  21. leslie 2015-06-27 13:23

    Take a breath spencer (or cock your repeater).

    “…every little thing in the world one might find upsetting”?

    A government steals western SD with military force after a 12.31.1875 arbitrary deadline. an entire people are imprisoned. a granite batholith at the center has spiritual significance in connection with the constellations. a geographer nominates Harney for the name of that peak.

    We drown out starlight because we, the dominant culture through its law-makers are not smart enough (just one example) to simply avoid it with science of downward facing street lights, because it might “gut the US economy”. Starlight doesn’t have any value to us.

    After 100 years, Indian litigation in SCOTUS concluded with finality that the theft by force was merely a civil “taking”, so here’s some money. $16 million. “Just compensation” for $76 billion in gold taken so far. Millions of acres.

    Genocide would be much cleaner. Then we wouldn’t have to “waste our breathe explaining such arbitrary cultural sensitivities.”

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