AUGUST 11, 2016


The peak’s Lakota name means “Owl maker,” for the rock formations that look like owls which were associated with impending death by the Lakota. A sacred site within the Black Hills, the mountain was named “Harney Peak” in 1855 by U.S. Army Lieutenant G. K. Warren in honor of General William S. Harney, his commander during an Army expedition against the Brule Sioux in which the Army killed 86 Sioux, mostly women and children, at Blue Water Creek. The Lakota had tried for 50 years to get the name of the peak changed from that of the man who led the massacre. In 2014, renewed efforts led by Basil Brave Heart, the Lakota Council of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and descendants of famed medicine man Black Elk supported renaming it for him as the peak is within the Black Elk National Wilderness Area. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted unanimously to change the name. The peak is the highest American elevation east of the Rocky Mountains. 

 “Geographic Names Information System,” U.S. Geographic Survey.  Retrieved 2/6/2022, Geographic Names Information System (
Photo:  Skye Marthaler, 5/11/2018. Permissive Use.

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