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Black Hills Sacred Peak Could Keep Murderer’s Name

The South Dakota Board of Geographic Names is not recommending a name change for Harney Peak, sacred site. The new name would be a Lakota Sioux one.
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The Board on Geographic Names had before recommended that Harney Peak, located in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, be changed to Hinhan Kaga, what the Lakota Sioux have always called it, but the board is now recommending the name stay the same.

Hinhan Kaga, means “Making of Owls,” but those opposed to the name change say it is difficult to pronounce, and may be confusing to tourists, according to KDLT News. Among them were Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Helper and Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen, who both submitted letters to the state board opposing the Lakota Sioux name.

A Lakota name is appropriate since it was on this peak that Black Elk had his great vision when he was 9 years old. Writer John Neihardt recounted Black Elks words about the vision in his book Black Elk Speaks: “I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.”

The 7,242-foot peak was named in the late 1850s by Lieutenant Governor K. Warren in honor of General William S. Harney, who was commander of the military in the Black Hills area. Harney killed 100 innocent Lakota in a village along Blue Water Creek in 1855, so many Native Americans don’t feel one of their sacred sites should be named for him.

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General William S. Harney

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The state’s recommendation to keep the current name now goes to a federal board.

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