Friday, September 25, 2015

Re: The Harney Peak Name Change. C'mon, Pubs, Put Your Thinking Caps On. This Is A Win-Win.

     First off, let's think about the phrase "cultural tourism."  Now let's think about the phrases
Black Elk (1863-1950)
Symbolic And Representative
(photo from
"missing the point" and "reflexive reactions." I 
know it isn't a common attitude among all
Republicans, but after looking over the chorus of complaints about the proposed name change of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak in the unabashedly Republican website Dakota War College, I realized that the moderator and many of his respondents are missing an important consideration in this re-christening.  The contemptuous tone of the moderator, who sarcastically wonders if supporters of the name change will "advocate for giving away the Black Hills next" is reinforced by the criticisms cranked out by many of the commenters. The unifying theme seems to be that the status quo is perfectly okay and that this idea represents a gratuitous concession to political correctness.
     Given that I know the facts regarding Harney and his behavior toward Indians in this region, I reject the "politcal correctness" stream of arguments and call it instead a concession to "common decency." You can make your own judgements about Colonel William Harney's treatment of the native population in Nebraska just south of the Black Hills . . . I call it mass murder and believe his name has no place on one of the most significant mountains in the United States.  
     But--at some risk of sounding crass, avaricious, mercenary and just plain greedy (all of which I probably am, lol)--I see the name change as a great boost to South Dakota's overall tourism marketing schemata.  Having had interests in the tourism business sector in the Black Hills and Badlands regions for many years now, I think I know something about what sells around here, and believe me, History is perhaps our most important commodity.  Known as "cultural visitation" in the trade, you can bet that marketing our culture and history is a major force in South Dakota's appeal to the millions of visitors we get out here every year. Tribal business interests are wise to this opportunity and have every reason to support this renaming.
     This is why I think changing the name of the mountain from "Harney,", which, obnoxious
Black Elk Peak?
I Can See It
(photo from
as it is,  has no place in the popular consciousness, to "Black Elk" would make for such a shrewd and market-driven decision.  
Don't think for a minute that a change like this wouldn't be welcome in all quarters of South Dakota's tourism industry. We all know what "Crazy Horse Mountain" has done for our industry.  Focusing on "cultural tourism" has been an ongoing effort for years now, and bringing in the wonderful tribal legacy that practically defines our "old west" heritage here is a major part of this initiative. Black Elk himself, a world-famous figure, is already immortalized here by having a huge wilderness area in the Black Hills named for him.  Crowning that honor by having his name attached to the highest peak in the hills seems a natural extension of the accolades he's already received.  I would be willing to bet that most tourism business operators in this region would love to see the name "Black Elk Peak" on maps and photos of our region and probably support the idea of the name change from a marketing perspective.


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