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Lawrence: Wipe Custer Off the South Dakota Map

Five years ago when we officially removed the name of white colonial Indian massacre-er General William S. Harney from South Dakota’s highest peak and replaced it with the name of Lakota holy man and potential Catholic saint Nicholas Black Elk, some of my commenters suggested we should turn next to removing the name of an even worse white colonialist, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, from South Dakota places (the town, county, state park which Black Elk Peak over-looks; the national forest to the north).

Reporter Tom Lawrence is stirring that anti-Custer pot with his column in various papers and his online home base, the South Dakota Standard:

He was a killer, having led the 7th Calvary into a peaceful village along the Washita River in Oklahoma Territory on Nov. 27, 1868, slaughtering men, women and children who followed Southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. It is widely considered to be a massacre, not a battle.

At Washita River, Custer took women and children as prisoners and used them as human shields. This isn’t a modern interpretation of his strategy and tactics — he wrote about it himself in his 1874 book, “My Life on the Plains.”

“Indians contemplating a battle, either offensive or defensive, are always anxious to have their women and children removed from all danger … For this reason I decided to locate our camp as close as convenient to (the) village, knowing that the close proximity of their women and children, and their necessary exposure in case of conflict, would operate as a powerful argument in favor of peace, when the question of peace or war came to be discussed.”

He attempted that same technique at the Battle of Greasy Grass less than two years later. It didn’t work that time.

Custer spent precious little time in our state, and when he did he was breaking the law and hunting the people who called this land home. He was an Ohio native who attended school in Michigan and roamed the nation as a soldier.

Why should South Dakota honor him so? [Tom Lawrence, “It’s Past Time to Remove George Armstrong Custer’s Name from South Dakota’s Maps. Rename the City, County, and Park,” South Dakota Standard, 2021.03.16]

Lawrence doesn’t go full anti-colonialist; he names both Indian and white options to replace the vain and murderous Custer: Crazy Horse, Oscar Howe, Joe Foss, George McGovern, all people who spent more time on our turf shaping our history.

Of course, we should be careful about spurring name changes in the current political climate. Given our Republican leaders’ affinity for man-slaughtering lieutenant colonels, we might end up with imparkment instead of impeachment and get Ravnsborg State Park.


  1. Fast Eddy 2021-03-18 10:19

    Let’s drive Custer from the state. In another life I used to travel around the state quite a bit and often wondered at the names of places. I know the part the Army played within the frontier state so it seemed insulting to have so many places named for them. I also enjoy history so I find the indigenous names so much more intriguing. I think visitors would also be more interested in visiting places properly renamed.

  2. cibvet 2021-03-18 12:28

    Its a great idea to revert back to the names of these places before the murder of native men,women and children for narcissistic pleasure to rename after themselves.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-03-18 16:34

    I think they should just lengthen it by adding “died for your sins”.

  4. grudznick 2021-03-18 17:31

    There’s a state park way over there by Sioux Falls that has a nickname or a former name that makes it more suitable to be renamed for Mr. Ravnsborg, should you fellows so wish to honor the incompetent elected attorney.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-03-18 17:49

    Glad to have you on this good earth grudz makes my blood run warm.

  6. grudznick 2021-03-18 18:03

    I appreciate your thoughts, Mr. Anderson.

  7. John 2021-03-18 19:21

    Mr. Lawrence’s column was too kind to Custer. Custer and the men under his command were also serial rapists.
    Read Nathan Philbrick’s modern, extensively researched, The Last Stand.

    If one has a soul, then one will have utter contempt for Custer.

    Mr. Lawrence’s column should also add remaining Custer Peak to anything more appropriate.

  8. grudznick 2021-03-18 19:26

    Mr. Lawrence leaves out many other place names and roads and innumerable private businesses that should be forced to change their names.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2021-03-19 17:42

    well….for a fascinating history of how place names get named and renamed Google,,Custer High School Milwaukee…its a great story…the athletic teams were once called the Custer Indians and the Custer Hatchetmen, then it was found that the school wasn’t named after General Custer but after a policeman named Harvey Custer, then it was found that Harvey Custer was a misnomer and that then it was determined that the street and other streets in the plat were named for civil war generals, but not the school, the patrolman (and street on which the school was located) should have been named for Harvey Carter….eventually, the school became Barack Obama Elementary…Its proper to recognize that place names are arbitrary and rransient

  10. grudznick 2021-03-19 17:57

    So, if I understand Mr. Blundt, there are other fellows named Custer who may have things named after them who should not have their history wiped off the map. Whodathunkit?

    Well, we all know Custer City is named after George A. so that place must be wiped, as must all the businesses which share its town name. So must Washington State, named after a fellow carved on a mountain named Rushmore who offends many. And the town in the District of Columbia. Oh, let us also change Sioux Falls. We should start nationally in the east, where these names were first placed, and move west. In South Dakota, we should first change the insulting name of Sioux Falls to something else (Irish Falls?) and then move west. I’m sure Mr. Hartford and Mr. Humbolt were heinous civil war fellows so let us consider naming those towns Skunk 1 and Skunk 2. As we move west, I invite your ideas for renames to places like “Salem” (as a witch, I do like that name), and “Fulton.”

    This will be great fun.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-19 17:58

    John reminds us of Custer Peak, from which I have blogged. Let’s get a petition going and rename it Blog Hill. Or, thinking about Arlo’s note, maybe Obama Peak? Is it still colonialism if we name it for a President who worked to undo racism?

  12. Arlo Blundt 2021-03-19 21:18

    Well…let us not approach this with the same doctrinaire enthusiasm of the Stalinist Russians circa 1930..I recommend we all consult Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s very comprehensive “South Dakota Geographic Names” as our reference.Hartford was once Oakdale, named for an early settler named Oakes, In 1880 it was renamed after the Connecticut city by a fellow named Tilton, who with other settlers came from that city. As I said, place names are arbitrary and transient.

  13. mike from iowa 2021-03-20 08:38

    Robert Fulton invented the steamboat without which Grudzilla’s pathetic bloviations could not achieve full steam ahead.

    Leave Fulton’s name alone. Instead, make up Nsative names for people like cardboard Mike Rounds- Tonto who built new tipi in flood zone.

  14. grudznick 2021-03-20 09:22

    We have conflicting internet answers. To be safe, we must wipe Fulton’s name.

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