United Native America seeks state park name change
In South Dakota
You can support this issue by emailing the South Dakota
Governor and State Rep's, ask them to make it happen!!!
Sign the petition! - click the link below:
Change Custer State Park To Chief Crazy Horse State Park Petition
By Heidi Bell Gease, Journal Staff Writer
January 19, 2005
If a national group accomplishes its goal, you could be spending
weekends watching the buffalo and fishing the lakes in Crazy Horse State
First, though, United Native America needs to find South Dakota
legislators willing to sponsor a bill that would rename Custer State
Park to Crazy Horse State Park.
"A lot of our members up here are not happy with the fact that there is
Custer State Park right there at the monument to Crazy Horse," Mike
Graham, founder of Oklahoma-based United Native America, said in a
telephone interview. "It's an idea whose time has come, and our members
are behind it."
The proposal hasn't made a big splash yet. Custer State Park
Superintendent Richard Miller said Tuesday that he had not heard about
the proposal. Neither had others in the tourism business.
Graham founded United Native America in 1993 in hopes of establishing a
national holiday to honor American Indians. The group has since become
involved in other issues, Graham said, including the renaming of a
Longmont, Colo., street previously named for a militiaman involved in
the Sand Creek Massacre.
United Native America claims a membership of 30,000, including 3,000 in
South Dakota. Graham said the idea of renaming Custer State Park
originated with South Dakotans, but did he not provide names of those
Graham drafted the proposed bill last month and distributed it to South
Dakota government leaders. He said Gov. Mike Rounds has promised to give
the issue "serious consideration" if it comes before him.
Graham is working with several legislators to make that happen, but so
far he has had limited success. Two of them "wouldn't agree to sponsor
the bill, but they said if the bill did get sponsored they would be in
favor of it," he said.
Graham expected the name change would be an easy sell, especially given
the fact that the state park lies near a private attraction, Crazy Horse
Memorial, that attracts large numbers of tourists each year.
Graham said he had not yet contacted the Ziolkowski family, who own and
operate Crazy Horse Memorial, about the proposal to rename Custer State
"There still seems to be this 1800s attitude in the representatives up
there that they tend to want to hang onto the U.S. side version of
history, as opposed to honoring the Native American side of it," Graham
The way he sees it, changing the park's name would cost little and reap
much in terms of tourism.
Others might disagree.
"It seems to me it would be quite an undertaking" to change the park's
name, Superintendent Miller said.
Gerard Baker, superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, was
superintendent at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in
Montana when its name was changed from Custer Battlefield in 1991.
"It's a paperwork exercise," Baker said Tuesday. "From my experience,
you need to cross all your T's and dot all your I's on this kind of
That is not to say he disagrees with the idea. Baker, who is a Hidatsa
Indian, believes many people would like to see places such as Custer
State Park renamed.
"Sometimes we put names up there that are heroes that are not
necessarily heroes to everybody, to all cultures," he said. "And I think
… we need to take those things into consideration."
Graham's proposed bill may not have legislative backing yet, but the
idea does have some grassroots support.
"I think it would be most appropriate," Mark St. Pierre, a writer and
former director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce, said.
"There's no question that any conscionable or thinking person would
realize that in fact Custer was probably a war criminal."
St. Pierre cites Custer's history of attacking Indian villages at dawn.
"He was not concerned at all about the welfare of non-combatants. He was
strictly out for himself and his own place in history," he said. "I
think, in the spirit of reconciliation, it would be a wonderful move (to
rename the park)."
Leonard Little Finger, cultural-resource specialist at Loneman School
and a descendant of Chief Big Foot, also sees renaming the park as a
great idea for everyone, not only for Indian people.
Courts have ruled that the Black Hills belong to Indian people, but
Little Finger said the issue isn't so much about holding title to the
property as it is being caretakers of the land.
"There's a sacredness, a sacred interrelationship with the land itself,"
he said. "I think giving recognition and honor to Crazy Horse certainly
is justified, because Crazy Horse really represents a certain mysticism
of any people, of any human beings, that were just a notch greater than
we as ordinary people.
"Nobody knows where he's buried, no pictures were ever taken of him, and
he fought as much as he could to try to protect the land," Little Finger
said. The park's current name conjures images of manifest destiny and
broken promises, yet Little Finger said it is still a place of peace,
harmony and connectedness.
"Crazy Horse the name itself, and what he stands for personifies
that," he said. "That's much more appealing than the quest for gold."
Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or
copyright © The Rapid City Journal
United Native America
Custer State Park name to be changed to Chief Crazy Horse State Park
Wording of bill for Chief Crazy Horse State Park
Whereas: The state government of South Dakota recommends
changing Custer State Park name to Chief Crazy Horse State Park.
Whereas: South Dakota State Government, in recognition of Chief Crazy
Horse and his Monument sees fit to bring about a state park bearing his
Whereas: Bringing about Chief Crazy Horse State park would show honor
and give well deserved respect to the man Crazy Horse. This was a man
who has played a bigger than life roll in South Dakota history, a
history known around the world.
Whereas: Custer State park is located next to Chief Crazy Horse
Monument, changing the name of the park would be more fitting than
bringing about another state park. This action would expedite the
creation of Chief Crazy Horse State Park.
Whereas: Establishing Chief Crazy Horse Park will show a strong bond
between the State Government and Tribal Governments within the state.
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives
(1) Recognizes and honor Chief Crazy Horse with a state park in his
(2) Urges Senate to join House members in establishing Chief Crazy Horse
(3) Urges the people of South Dakota to support the establishment of
Chief Crazy Horse State park.
Crazy Horse State Park would enhance a better understanding of Native
Americans, their achievements and contributions to the state through
state park programs.
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