Imagine pulling a clan up the Little Missouri River in dugout canoes 12,000 years ago.
Exploiting the gap between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets during the Wisconsin Glacial Episode those Clovis People were the first humans to see the Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower. They settled Paradise only to have their descendants watch it be destroyed by colonization.
With the Oglala Lakota Nation as an interested party Chief Arvol Looking Horse has submitted a request to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names saying the words “Devils Tower” are a malapropism.
Wyoming officials hold the name Devils Tower to be "sacred" for the way it attracts tourists and their dollars. They say changing the name will harm the tourist trade. Do they seriously believe the word “Devil” attracts tourists, instead of the unusual geological formation? The geological formation isn’t going to go away and tourists world-wide will always be attracted to it. Its pull for people of all backgrounds won’t be weakened by a name that more perfectly reflects its inherent magnetism.The tower, a remnant of an intrusive laccolith, has been called Mahto Tipila or Bear Lodge for centuries by the Lakota.
Bear Lodge appeared on most 1874 to 1901 maps. In 1875, a translator with the Dodge Expedition mistakenly led Colonel Dodge to believe the Lakota term for “grizzly bear” meant “bad god.” Local corruption of the translation produced the even more insulting term, “Devil,” paving the way for “Devils” Tower.
If a translation of an English language place-name was both incorrect and offensive, it would be immediately corrected by an outraged English-speaking White majority, including Wyoming’s Federal and State elected representatives.
A local rancher says, “… the vast majority of all of the public worldwide recognize it ... as Devils Tower [and] don’t see it as an evil thing, as a bad thing.” To the 26 affiliated tribes, descendants of the people who were on the land first, this argument just compounds the insult. Being spiritually connected to the land, with long-standing spiritual names for its landmarks, calling their sacred landmark by the name of a demonic figure like the Devil, and then promoting it by that name world-wide, is to them a "bad and evil thing."
Isn’t it, therefore, a moral imperative that we make amends and restore the correct Lakota name to a landmark that actually is sacred to the Indians? Moreover, if we humbly recognize our error and restore the rightful traditional name, translated as Bear Lodge, the public world-wide might well see it as a good and noble act, and be all the more inspired to visit our area.
Call or write President Obama and ask that he make this respectful name change from Devils Tower to Bear Lodge National Monument.
LTE: SYLVIA LAMBERT, Interior, South Dakota appearing in the Casper Star.
Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, has a family ranch at the base of the tower. “If they want to find something offensive, they ought to look at Custer, South Dakota,” he said. “Custer obviously had a problem with the Sioux, and I’ve heard nothing about renaming of Custer, South Dakota.” [Laura Hancock]In the occupied Black Hills of South Dakota descendants of European colonizers are apoplectic over the proposal to restore the state's highest point to its Lakota name, Hinhan Kaga or A Making of Owls.
The ancestors of all American Indians living east of the Rocky Mountains saw that peak when the Clovis Culture crossed into the Cheyenne/Belle Fourche drainage then into the Missouri/Mississippi River system. Lakota is an Algonquin-based tongue and is spoken by a majority of South Dakota’s tribal nations. After migrating into present-day North Carolina and forced westward by manifest destiny then acquiring horses from Spanish exploiters the Lakota reclaimed the Black Hills.
Senator Lisa Murkowski and the US Park Service are doing what Alaskans are asking of Congress urging the body to approve a name change for North America's highest peak.
The Athabascan name, meaning “the high one,” has been a bone of contention between Alaska’s congressional delegation and Ohio’s, which has sought to preserve the current name honoring assassinated U.S. president William McKinley. “At home in Alaska, we just call it Denali because it’s part of our history,” Murkowski said, according to the statement. “Officially changing the name from Mount McKinley to Mount Denali will show the long-standing significance that the name Denali holds for Alaskans.” [KTUU teevee]Restoring the dignity of endangered cultures is one tiny part of eliminating American Indian suicides and despair in South Dakota and Wyoming.
Humanure has been a feature of the Missouri River basin for 12 millennia but the Dakota Excess pipeline is the real human waste.
Of course, the South Dakota Democratic Party should urge President Obama to dissolve the Black Hills National Forest, move management of the land from the US Department of Agriculture into the Department of Interior; and, in cooperation with Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildfire Management, rename it Okawita Paha or He Sapa National Monument eventually becoming part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer/Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.
It's time for the State of South Dakota to abandon Bear Butte State Park that it claimed through colonization and remand it to the tribes for governance so they can restore its name to Mato Paha and for the US Park Service to add the name Mahto Tipila to Devils Tower National Monument.
ip photo: Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower at sunset. Click on the image for a better look.