Feds Overrule State to Rename Its Highest Mountain

Introducing Black Elk peak
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 12, 2016 3:33 AM CDT
Feds Rename South Dakota's Highest Peak
This Aug. 14, 2014 file photo shows what was then Harney Peak, southwest of Hill City, South Dakota.   (Chris Huber)

A federal board's Thursday decision to rename Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak surprised South Dakota's governor, but vindicated activists who unsuccessfully argued to state officials last year that the peak shouldn't bear the name of a man whose soldiers killed Native Americans. The decision by the US Board on Geographic Names will cause "unnecessary expense and confusion," Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday in a statement. The governor said he's heard little support for renaming the peak, which is South Dakota's tallest and stands in the Black Hills National Forest, the AP reports. Black Elk was a Lakota spiritual leader who died in the mid-20th century.

Black Elk is "definitely a very powerful visionary that is at least deserving of the peak's name," says Wayne Frederick, a representative on the tribal council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. "It's extremely uplifting." The federal board determined from the input received that the Harney Peak name "was derogatory or offensive being that it was on a holy site of the Native Americans," says Lou Yost, the board's executive secretary for domestic names. The vote was 12 in favor, none against, and one abstaining, he says. Army Gen. William S. Harney's men massacred Native American women and children during a battle in September 1855, according to historic records. (Ohio wasn't happy about Mt. McKinley's new name.)

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