What's In A Name?
(photo from argusleader.com)
Apparently, Schoenbeck's intent of repealing the law met with some resistance, so his House Bill now is simply an effort to "revise" the statute. This is an amendment of some consideration because it keeps the Board in place. The revised bill reads to me like the amendment leaves everything pretty much intact with some extra emphasis on its charged purpose, which will probably bring the Board’s mission, not its very existence, into focus.
That means that despite failing to legislate it out of existence, Schoenbeck still has an opening to redefine its mission. As he told the RCJ last week, it "got all the work done that the statutes directed them to do." This is plain crazy because Schoenbeck's assumption is that there are no longer any offensive place names in South Dakota. Schoenbeck's ethno-centricity blinds him to the fact that there are indeed offensively named places in this state. Anyone here ever heard of a mass
murderer named Colonel William S.
Harney? His slaughter, abduction and looting of an Indian encampment in western
Nebraska is recognized by the Nebraska State Historical Society as "The
Harney Massacre." Does Schoenbeck just shrug this off as one of
those things? Is getting offended by the fact that our most significant
mountain in South Dakota is named for a human exterminator just a PC
distraction to him? Schoenbeck contended in his RCJ interview that the
law creating the Board was intended to replace names that have offensive words
like "squaw" and "Negro" in them
and that the recent dust-up over Harney Peak is a "whole different mission."
Murderer, Kidnapper, Looter
Uh-uh. It is not a whole different mission. The Board's empowering statute mandates that it "consider issues related to geographical place names." Regarding Harney Peak, this is an "issue" that has been raised by many South Dakotans and the board is charged with “considering” it. The Board's work is not done and the Harney Peak name change is part of its mission. By claiming otherwise, Schoenbeck is effectively telling many South Dakotans that their grievance regarding Harney's name is irrelevant--that in fact they are irrelevant. Even in revision, this bill, at best, is an obnoxious attempt at ignoring people’s concerns. At worst, it’s an effort at suppressing them.
Addendum (added at 1613 1/26): Shortly after I finished this, the SD House passed the bill on a mostly partisan vote. If the bill becomes law, the state legislature will determine if a site has a name that has to be changed in accordance with state law. This would effectively disempower the Board On Geographic Names.