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Descendants Of Enemies Join Together As Friends, Advocate Harney Peak Name Change

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Photo by Victoria Wicks
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Karen Little Thunder and Paul Stover Soderman

Two descendants of two enemy leaders have joined together to advocate changing the name of Harney Peak.

Karen Little Thunder is a descendant of Brulé Chief Little Thunder, who was injured at Blue Water Creek in 1855. Eighty-six men, women and children died in that massacre led by U.S. Army General William S. Harney.

Paul Stover Soderman is a seventh-generation descendant of General Harney.

The two traveled to Washington, D.C., in September to testify before a hearing of the federal Board on Geographic Names.

Karen Little Thunder says opponents have offered concerns that changing the name of Harney Peak will open up a plethora of name changes to other geographic sites.

But she says with the peak, there’s a difference.

“It’s a matter of place. This place, this mountaintop, is very different than a street just a few blocks away that’s called Harney Street,” Little Thunder says. “The place itself, the mountaintop, is sacred to us.”

Harney Peak is just one site under consideration for restoration of indigenous names.  
President Barack Obama just recently signed off on restoring the name Mount Denali to what has been Mount McKinley in Alaska.

And there are ongoing battles over Devils Tower in Wyoming, known to indigenous people as Mato Tipila, roughly translated as the bear’s lodge or home.
 

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