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Harney Peak Name Changed; Governor Responds

Victoria Wicks

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has reportedly voted to change the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has issued a brief new release saying that he is surprised by the decision, since he heard very little about support in South Dakota for the change.

The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names conducted public hearings last summer and collected written comments. The state board initially recommended a name change but later rescinded that recommendation.

The federal board also took public comments over several months and almost came to a decision in April to change the name to Black Elk Peak. However, the federal board put that decision on hold when some board members expressed concern that tribes were not in agreement on a new name. Many of them preferred Hinhan Kaga, the traditional Lakota name for the mountain.

Credit Victoria Wicks
Black Elk Peak as seen from below

Governor Daugaard says in his statement that the federal decision will cause expense and confusion. And he says he suspects very few people know the history of either Harney or Black Elk.

William S. Harney was a U.S. Army general who led a massacre on tribal members at Blue Water Creek in Nebraska in 1855. A relative of Harney has pushed hard to change the name, saying his family doesn't want the general honored, and South Dakota tribes have been instrumental in the effort.

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