Not everything went well in Pierre yesterday. Across the street from the Capitol, the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names went back on its earlier support for removing the name of Indian-massacring General William S. Harney from South Dakota’s highest mountain and decided to recommend that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names keep the name as is.
The board heard one more blast of the colonialist rancor and ignorance that characterized most of the opposition displayed in the written public comments against the proposed new Lakota name, “Hinhan Kaga (Making of Owls)”:
One citizen spoke at the meeting Monday before the final vote to retain Harney.
“This issue should never have went this far,” Glen Lockner of Wall said. “We can speak freely and move freely because of men like him.”
He said Harney was responding to orders when he sent U.S. soldiers forth to engage with Indian people and protect settlers.
“To this I say, poor losers, considering this was 160 years ago,” he said.
Lockner noted that the Pennington County Commission sent a letter opposing the change and opposing the proposed name.
It is our county, it is not the Indians’ county,” he said, adding that if the name change was put to a vote in Pennington County, “It would go down like a rock” [Bob Mercer, “State Board Supports Harney Peak’s Name,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.06.30].
This land was made for you and me—but we beat you, so buzz off, you loser Indians!
In a quest for lemonade, I’m inclined to believe the board’s flip-flop had less to do with overt racism and more to do with the Daugaard Administration telling them not to make things hard to pronounce. The board may also have been miffed at being told by the feds that their parentheses really did look silly:
She referred to an email received Friday from Jennifer Runyon, a member of the U.S. board’s research staff. Runyon advised Hansen the U.S. board wouldn’t accept a name with the translation in parentheses.
Runyon also suggested that peak be added to the name and said the only name under consideration by the U.S. board is Black Elk Peak.
Runyon told Hansen that Basil Brave Heart, the citizen from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who made the original proposal of Black Elk Peak, could endorse another name, but would need to withdraw his proposal [Mercer, 2015.06.30].
But nertz even to Black Elk: the board ignored Tribal Relations Secretary Steve Emery’s motion for the Lakota name, declined to return to the Black Elk discussion, and voted 4–1 to keep “Harney Peak.” What happened to all “you liberals” on the board?