Naughty names nixed on Pine Ridge reservation

SD panel: Offensive titles given to geographic features should go.

By: Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press

Published April 06, 2013, 07:49 AM in the Daily Republic


PIERRE — A South Dakota panel charged with scrubbing the state of offensive place names has recommended that two creeks, a dam and two other geographical features on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation be renamed to reflect the area’s traditional use for deer hunting.

The state Board on Geographic Names is proposing that the locations — all of which feature a variation of the phrase “Squaw Humper” — get new names in the Lakota language. For example, Squaw Humper Creek would instead be Tahc’a Okute Wakpa, which translates to Deer Hunting Ground Creek.

The names were suggested by Oglala Sioux tribal officials at a March 28 hearing on the reservation.

The state Board on Geographic Names will seek public comment on the proposed names before taking a final vote in June.

The names then would be submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which has the final say on naming places.

The renaming of the five features in northwestern Shannon County is the second case in which the state board has used a new process aimed at increasing public involvement in changing offensive names for places, mostly features that use the terms “Negro” or “Squaw” but are so small they do not appear on most maps. The board recently recommended that Negro Creek in Meade County be renamed Howe’s Creek because it’s near the community of Howes.

The board’s chairman, state Secretary of Tribal Relations J.R. LaPlante, said the panel is grateful for the grassroots effort by historian Wilmer Mesteth and other officials of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Historic Preservation Office to find culturally appropriate replacement names.

“Really, we were just ecstatic as a board to see the involvement. And of course, the names being recommended were in the original native tongue. It was just an exciting day for us,” LaPlante said.

Joyce Whiting, project review officer for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, said she is happy the state board accepted the Lakota names proposed for the creeks and other features.

“Years ago, all the names — all the creeks, the buttes, everything — they were in Lakota,” Whiting said.

“It’s something for me to witness this and to be a part of it.”

The features being renamed apparently got their original names because a man lived in the area with two American Indian women, Whiting said.

The 2001 South Dakota Legislature passed a law to start eliminating offensive names, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has since changed the names of 20 places in the state.

Another state law passed in 2009 listed 15 names that hadn’t been changed and created the new state board to tackle the job.

However, the federal board has deferred action on some name changes, partly because it said the state had not sufficiently involved the public in renaming geographic features.

Next, the state board will seek new names for some places in Custer County, located in the southwestern corner of the state.

Whiting said tribal officials also would like to see something done about places with names that do not meet the official definition of offensive, but bother American Indians. Some places named for military officers sent to the area to subdue American Indians more than a century ago should also be known by their Lakota names, she said.

Historic Federal Lawsuit Dealing with Removal of Indian Children Filed on Behalf of Lakota

Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents,

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA – Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of three American Indian parents, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe for the illegal removal of Indian children from American Indian families in the US District Court in Rapid City, South Dakota.

American Indian Parents LawsuitACLU and Tribal Leaders at Court House

The 39 page lawsuit pertains to the lack of adequate hearings when American Indian children are removed from their familial home.

In one case cited in the lawsuit, one custodial hearing lasted a mere 60 seconds. American Indian parents were not even allowed or permitted to see the court papers. The judge signed the documents to remove the children within in seconds.

The case has been in the making for months as American Civil Liberties Union attorneys reviewed the circumstances surrounding the procedures used in the Pennington Court system.

“This case is not about numbers, this case is about the procedural fairness,”

stated Stephen Pevar, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney.

“This lawsuit seeks to put an end to disgraceful and unlawful practices that unfortunately have been standard practice in Pennington County, South Dakota, for a long time.”

American Indian Parents LawsuitSigns say it all

Outside of the Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building in Rapid City, American Indians began to gather to protest shortly before 9:00 am. Facing brisk temperatures on the second day of spring that were in the low 20s, some 100 tribal members stood outside the federal building as the attorneys and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan V. Brewer, Sr. went inside to file the lawsuit.

“This is the first step. Our children have been abused for far too long,”

stated President Brewer outside before he went into the federal building to file the lawsuit with American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

“ This has to stop, we will not tolerate this any longer. Today is a historic day.”

People carried signs that read: “Protect our children from the state” and “No more exploitation of Indian children.”

Several tribal members were visibly upset as they took the microphone to tell their stories of how children were removed from their homes without due process by county or state of South Dakota officials.

Mary Black Bonnet, 38, a tribal citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spoke about being removed from her family when she was only 18 months old and adopted by a non-Indian family and ended up in Niles, Michigan.

“I fought for 22 years to get back to my people. I kept telling myself, “I have to get away from these crazy people.” I wanted to get back to my people,”

referring to her natural, American Indian family. As she spoke, her daughter clung to her.

American Indian Parents LawsuitMary Black Bonnet – Rosebud Sioux

Some of the attendees discussed how the state of South Dakota and Pennington County officials have ignored the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA, that was passed by Congress in 1978 in response to the large number of American Indian children who removed from their homes in at disproportionate rates.

“This hits the heart of our tribe. With this lawsuit we want to see our rights that ICWA should guarantee to us. Pennington County is violating our rights,”

stated Juanita Scherich, ICWA director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

“I had to witness the actual filing of this lawsuit. This is so historic,”

said Sheris Red Feather, whose son, Patrick, committed suicide while in the custody of the State of South Dakota when he was 15.

She went upstairs of the federal building to watch the filing of the lawsuit at the federal court by the lawyers and President Brewer.

Tribal Councilors Robin LaBeau and Robert Walters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe attended the event to demonstrate the support of their Tribe to the lawsuit.

“We are here to support this lawsuit 100 percent. It comes down to our support of all Lakota children,”