Harney Peak To Change Name To Black Elk Peak

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A federal board voted to change the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak – but some South Dakota government officials against the decision. 

This mountain has been known as Harney Peak for more than 100 years. Now it will be known as Black Elk Peak. 

“I’m in favor of the change for sure,” Meyers said.

As Director of Tribal Outreach at South Dakota State University and a Native American, Richard Meyers says the change means a lot to him.

“It’s a right step in a direction that helps people heal from traumatic things that were not very positive,” Richard Meyers said.

The landmark was formerly named after William Harney, a general who led soldiers who killed Sioux Indians across the Plains. For Meyers, that former name brought him and SDSU Senior Trevor Swift Hawk a lot of pain. 

“I guess the history of General Harney and some of the heinous things he did to Native American people and to have that be the highest point in South Dakota,  was a little offensive, but now since they changed to Black Elk’s Peak, I think it’s a good step,” Trevor Swift Hawk said.

For Native Americans, Black Elk was an important influence in their culture.

“So a lot of people looked up to him and followed him,” Swift Hawk said.

Though it may only be a name change, Meyers believes it could be a sign of future change to come.

“Where is change going to happen if it’s not going to be these small things first?” Meyers said.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names says that the name change to Black Elk Peak applies to all federal geographic products including maps and publications.

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