Here's the Next Mountain Name Up for Debate

Native Americans want to nix Harney Peak
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2015 12:49 PM CDT
Here's the Next Mountain Name Up for Debate
This aerial photo taken Aug. 14, 2014, shows Harney Peak southwest of Hill City, SD.   (Chris Huber/Rapid City Journal via AP)

With the dispute over Alaska's Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) now over, legislators can turn their attention to another mountain nomenclature debate. South Dakota's Harney Peak is named for Gen. William S. Harney, an Army general who was "one of the best-known military figures in America" in the 1800s, according to his biography. But the Lakota Indians hold him responsible for killing dozens of their people, including women and children, in the Battle of Ash Hollow. They've asked the federal Board on Geographic Names to weigh in, but there is no consensus on what the mountain should be called.

Some suggested the mountain be named for Sioux medicine man Black Elk, others suggested Thunder Mountain, and the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names (which gives its recommendations to the federal board) chose “Hinhan Kaga (Making of Owls)," according to USA Today. But that name wasn't received well, and the state board ultimately recommended the original, controversial name stay put. "It’s not an easy black-and-white answer," explained the chairwoman. "Does it offend me? No, but I'm not of that culture. Does it offend people that I know? Yes." Two state Cabinet secretaries oppose any name change, citing the cost of changing signs and maps, plus a potential tourism drop due to confusion. A decision from the federal board is expected next year. (More Denali stories.)

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