Black Elk Peak: Operation Mountain Name Change
I absolutely support this campaign. Back in the day, I knew Black Elk’s grandson, Wallace Black Elk, very well… also a medicine man. If you’ve never read Black Elk Speaks, you must. Please join me in supporting Myron Pourier’s campaign (see below) to change Harney Peak’s current name to Black Elk Peak.
The state of South Dakota denied (voted against) changing the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak, and then forwarded its decision to the Federal U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The Federal Board overturned the State’s vote and will meet no later than September to finalize its decision.
I will start another campaign to raise funding for the official name change ceremony to Black Elk Peak, but I first must coordinate with the U.S. Forest Service to schedule possible ceremony dates, then a tentative agenda of events on the day of the name change celebration ceremony.
Take Care, and God bless David…
Myron W. Pourier
Great-Great Grandson of Black Elk
It is a pleasure, and very humbling, to gain Mr. Soul’s support in this very ethical effort to change a mountain’s name from ‘Harney Peak’ to Black Elk Peak, a name that is so deserving to be on a mountain, a name that reflects the sacredness of the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Beauty of Mother Earth.
The South Dakota Board on Geographical Name Change had proposed a new name of ‘Hinhan Kaga,’ which translates to “Making of Owls.” The proposed new name is definitely not set in stone, or official yet; we still have until June 15, 2015, to send additional Public Comments to change the name of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: PUBLIC COMMENTS CLOSE JUNE 15, 2015, SO PLEASE ACT NOW.
Please write the South Dakota Board on Geographic Names at the address below:
Department of Tribal Relations
302 East Dakota
Pierre, SD 57501
Fax: (605) 773-6592
The SD Board can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter, a senior in high school, has also established a Facebook page titled, Name Change Of Harney Peak as a class project and I have initiated a GoFundMe account to offset our expenses. Additionally, Black Elk Development is our family corporation at which you may find a petition to sign that supports the name change.
As a young man, I had the distinguished fortune of knowing my grandmother’s brother and sisters, and I knew my Great Grandfather Ben Black Elk, second cousin to Crazy Horse. In 1887, Black Elk traveled to England with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. At Wounded Knee in 1890, while on horseback, Black Elk charged soldiers and helped rescue some of the wounded. He arrived after Spotted Elk’s (Big Foot’s) band of people had been shot and was grazed by a bullet to his hip. His son, Ben Black Elk, was also an ambassador at Mount Rushmore in the 1960s to the early 1970s.
I have read Black Elk Speaks many times and have discussed it at great lengths with my grandparents, the children of Ben Black Elk, the son of Nicholas Black Elk, and the translator of Black Elk Speaks (which it should be noted and known that Ben Black Elk was actually the co-author of the book authored by John G. Neighardt). Our Great-Great Grandfather Black Elk never understood the English language and never learned how to read or write it. He was born a Lakota and died a Lakota with a vision to unite all people of color.
We have carried on our late Grandmother Olivia L. Pourier-Black Elk’s vision of assisting our senior citizens, youth, and our veterans.
- We provide for home repairs for our Senior Citizens through replacing and repairing broken windows, doors, roofs, siding, and we provide ADA-accessible ramps.
- For our youth, we provide one-on-one counseling in the areas of Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Gang Violence Awareness and Prevention, Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention, Bullying Awareness and Prevention, Alcohol and Drug Awareness and Prevention, and we encourage and provide our youth to be active in sports. Those youth who wish to participate in sports are taken to tournaments, such as basketball, baseball, volleyball and, in some instances, we have youth who are interested in boxing.
- We provide financial assistance for our veterans to attend their medical appointments, as well as our non-veteran senior citizens for financial assistance as well.
- I personally provide speaking engagements to the youth and to the public on the aspects of our culture, our way of life, and on the book, Black Elk Speaks from a family perspective which is built on the philosophy of the Lakota words Mitakuye Oyasin — which translates to English as “We are all related.”
With Mr. Soul’s support, please read the information below and do what you can to help us. Thank you so much for promoting our peaceful movement to “Mending Our Sacred Hoop One Generation At A Time With All Walks Of Life.”
To have Mr. Soul’s support is a humbling honor.
Great-Great Grandson of Black Elk
The name Black Elk Peak has a great ring to it
My old friend and Holy Rosary schoolmate Basil Brave Heart is proposing to have Harney Peak, the highest point east of the Rockies, renamed after Oglala Holy Man Black Elk, an idea I think is so very appropriate. I was contacted by Myron Pourier, great great grandson of the elder Black Elk, to ask if I might help in this effort, and I am honored to do so.
The summit that is known as Harney Peak was central to the great dream Black Elk experienced when he was a child, as he lay in a coma near death. In the book Black Elk Speaks, which he told to the author and poet John Neihardt, the holy man related:
“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”
As with other landmarks like Bear Butte and Peh sla, that peak held great significance to the spirit of several Native cultures. In the Lakota legend of the great deluge, it was where the people went to survive when the water monster Unktehi and her children swelled themselves to flood the great Missouri and its tributaries. The people called upon Wakinyan Tanka, the great Thunder being who lives in the sacred Black Hills, and with his Wakangli lightning he killed Unktehi and saved them.
There are two place names in the Black Hills that are offensive to the history of our Native tribes: Custer and Harney. The name Custer is offensive for obvious reasons, but if the citizens of that town want to live with the name of a historic loser, perhaps we can leave them be. But the name of Harney should not be given to a sacred pinnacle in a most sacred area, He Sapa.
It was, after all, General William S. Harney who led the punitive campaign of 1855 against the Sioux, which was in retribution for the Sioux annihilation of the brash young Lt. John Grattan and his troops in their unprovoked attack on the Lakota over the so-called Mormon cow incident. Harney’s most famous “battle” in his punitive campaign was at Blue Water Creek which actually was a massacre that rivals Wounded Knee in its senseless brutality.
One historical account tells of treachery added to the brutality: “Harney concluded the more than 250 Brules and Oglalas camped on Blue Creek were the guilty parties. He divided his force and led his infantry towards the village. While Harney engaged in a delaying parley with Chief Little Thunder, the mounted troops had circled undetected to the north. … The infantry opened fire with its new, long-range rifles and forced the Indians to flee toward the mounted soldiers, who inflicted terrible casualties. Eighty-six Indians were killed, seventy women and children were captured, and their tipis were looted and burned.” Naming the peak that Oglala holy man Black Elk referred to as the “center of the world” after such a man as Harney adds insult to the presumption of conquest of the Sioux people, and the stealing of their sacred He Sapa.
In their quest, Basil Brave Heart and Myron Pourier will be faced with the attitude, “now those damned Indians want to change the names of our great mountains, like they want to change the names of our favorite sports teams. Aren’t they ever satisfied?”
Disposing of the name Harney and replacing it with Black Elk is not too much to ask of the state of South Dakota or the federal government, whichever has the jurisdiction in the matter.
Injustice should have no bounds, no statute of limitations, until the offense is corrected.
Perhaps in no other literature than Black Elk Speaks has there been such an attempt by the two cultures to understand one another through Nicholas Black Elk and John Neihardt. The two men had an immediate, profound understanding of one another, in my opinion, because both had near-death experiences at the age of nine years old. It is said that having such an experience gives one a sense of profound oneness that supercedes all cultural and religious barriers. The collaboration of John Neihardt and Nicholas Black Elk was in one seamless voice, likely because both had experienced that ineffable sense of oneness that Near-Death Experiencers purport to have.
If these two men had never met, the world would have been at a significant mainstream cultural loss. Both the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and the American mythologist Joseph Campbell were profoundly influenced by the book, Black Elk Speaks. In fact, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, cited Black Elk Speaks as the most influential work in his penning The Hero With a Thousand Faces. A young filmmaker by the name of George Lucas was greatly influenced by Campbell’s work when he developed his movie, Star Wars. After Star Wars, another screenwriter, Christopher Vogler, created a mythic story structure based on George Lucas’s that has become a formula for success in Hollywood. One might say that movies such as Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lion King, and countless other films would not exist were it not for Black Elk and Neihardt.
The revered talk show host Dick Cavett said that he had never received more mail after an interview than the one that he did with John Neihardt. Cavett said that Neihardt told his immortal story of Black Elk and the vision this mystic and noble American Indian had so fortunately settled upon Neihardt as the man with the skills and understanding to bring his colorful and spiritual vision to the world. Cavett also said that the author Dee Brown mentioned seeing my show with Neihardt, adding, “Thousands of books have been written about Indians, and there are many fine ones. But if you could only preserve one book about the American Indian, it would have to be Black Elk Speaks.”
Many might ask, Why the need for reconciliation between mainstream society and the First Nations? Here in Canada, the gulf of misunderstanding is no different from the U.S.A. In fact, South Africa’s system of Apartheid and segregation and separation was based on the Canadian system of Indian reserves. Despite having had apologies to residential school survivors from our Federal government, and recently had Truth and Reconciliation committees struck, Canadian children still don’t learn much about the truth, let alone understand or have the tools to begin to think about the lofty concept of reconciliation.
Watching the debate over renaming Harney Peak from afar — especially the insensitive comments about the need to rename the peak — saddens me, and highlights the gulf of misunderstanding that still exists. South Dakota’s Attorney General recently accused the Black Elk family’s fundraising initiative to rename the peak as not being a legitimate charity. Black Elk Development has so far only raised around $250 to lobby for this initiative. I would suggest that the Attorney General visit the Black Elk family in Manderson, South Dakota, himself. Then he might see from his position of power and privilege that he is using a sledgehammer to squash a fly.
Renaming Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak is greatly symbolic of starting a process of reconciliation on many levels. After all, it was on this peak, both in a vision form and in our shared reality, that Black Elk experienced a beautiful vision of understanding among all of mankind, and he may have also predicted that this would occur during the generation that we are at in this moment in history. Hopefully this happens.
Okotoks, Alberta, Canada
Harney Peak is the highest natural point in South Dakota and the Black Hills. It lies in the Black Elk Wilderness area, in southern Pennington County, in the Black Hills National Forest. The peak lies 3.7 mi (6.0 km) WSW of Mount Rushmore. At 7,242 feet (2,207 m), it has been described by the Board on Geographical Names as the highest summit in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Guadalupe Peak and Sierra Blanca also lie far to the east of the Continental Divide and are substantially higher, but the Rockies end north of the region of that latitude.
The peak was named in the late 1850s by Lieutenant Gouverneur K. Warren in honor of General William S. Harney, who was commander of the military in the Black Hills area in the late 1870s…
“Mending Our Sacred Hoop One Generation at a Time Through Cultural Diversity”
My name is Myron W. Pourier. I am an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a fourth generation direct descendent of Black Elk. I am a former Oglala Sioux Tribe Official in which I have served the Tribal Membership in the capacity of the “Fifth Member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe” for two-terms.
At the present time, I am the President of Black Elk Development. Our family organization was established in Honor of our Grandmother Olivia Black Elk-Pourier (“Black Elk Lives: Conversations With the Black Elk Family”) and the daughter of Ben Black Elk and granddaughter of Black Elk (Black Elk Speaks) and the most honored Sioux Holy Man of the 19th and 20th Century…