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Renaming Of Harney Peak Still On Hold At Federal Level

Photo by Victoria Wicks

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has not yet made a decision on changing the name of Harney Peak in the Black Hills. The board discussed the topic at its April meeting, held last week, but failed to come to a consensus.

Executive director Lou Yost says the board will probably take up the issue again at its June 9 or July 14 meeting.

A drive to rename the peak started last year, when traditional Lakota people joined with a relative of William Harney to push for the change. General Harney led U.S. Army troops in an 1855 massacre of Lakota people at Blue Water Creek in Nebraska.

Harney Peak is the site of a spring ritual sacred to indigenous people.

After holding a series of public hearings, the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names initially approved changing the name. But that board received additional opposition after public hearings had ended, and there was no consensus on a new name, so the state board ultimately supported leaving the name as it is.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill to put itself in control of deciding whether terms are offensive. After that law takes effect, anyone wanting to change the name of a geographic feature because it has an offensive name must go before the legislature.

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Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.