By JAMES NORD
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Two members of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s cabinet are concerned about a push to rename Harney Peak with its Lakota name, saying it could confuse visitors who might want to visit the Black Hills landmark.
Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler and Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen have submitted letters to the state Board on Geographic Names to oppose the renaming of Harney Peak as Hinhan Kagan, which means Making of Owls. The state Board on Geographic Names preliminarily recommended the name change in May and is expected to make a final recommendation on June 29. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names would make the final decision.
Harney Peak is the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. Supporters of the change argue the current name is offensive because Army Gen. William S. Harney led a group of soldiers who killed Sioux Indians in Nebraska in 1855.
Hepler and Hagen said in their letters that the proposed name is difficult to pronounce and that it would confuse tourists.
Hagen said Monday that he’s sensitive to the opinions surrounding the proposed name change but that the name Harney Peak is known to many people across the U.S. and around the world. He said changing the name could have a detrimental effect on tourism.
Hepler wasn’t available for comment.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in an email that the governor hasn’t taken a position on the proposed name change.
State Board on Geographic Names Chairwoman June Hansen declined to speak to a reporter on Monday. Board Vice Chairman Jay Vogt didn’t immediately return a request for comment.