Renaming Custer State Park

Unable to convince South Dakota state senators to sponsor a bill to rename South Dakota's Custer State Park to Crazy Horse State Park before the January 2005 deadline, Mike Graham, founder of United Native America, will have to wait another year.

Graham drafted a proposal of the bill to rename this state park and distributed the proposal to South Dakota state level government leaders in December, 2004. South Dakota state legislators told Graham they were not willing to sponsor his bill, but would support it once he found another sponsor.

In a phone interview Graham explained that South Dakota state Senators Theresa Two Bulls of District 27 and Stanford Adelstein of District 32 said they were too busy and had bigger issues to tackle in the next year—which did not involve changing the name of state parks. Graham felt that Two Bulls alone was in favor of the bill, but she became hesitant knowing she would have to deal with others such as Adelstein who was in oppostion of changing the state parks name.

Graham expressed his frustration that Adelstein and Two Bulls however, had time to pass state bills establishing fry bread as the official bread of South Dakota and Tyrannosaurus Rex as the official dinosaur.

He blames Adelstein for the majority of difficulties he has faced in attempting to find a sponsor for this bill. According to Graham, "Adelstein has basically put his foot down on this issue." Graham also stated that, "The state government is not for the Indian people in this state."

Graham has been speaking to South Dakota's Governor Mike Rounds, who recently promised Graham he would give the state parks name change "serious consideration" according to the Rapid City Journal. Graham hopes to hear positive feedback about the possibility of the governor making a proclamation about renaming the state park within the next few weeks. Graham has the authority to make a proclamation because there is not state board or committee that covers state land mark names.

Although United Native America may not influence the governor to overpower state senators, Graham expects to pass the bill next year especially considering the park’s proximity to the private Crazy Horse Memorial. When asked why he is so passionate about changing the name of this park, Graham responded, "The American Indian community wants all people coming to the Chief Crazy Horse Monument in the future to fully enjoy the area free of signs of the United States' aggressions against the American Indian peoples."

Leonard Little Finger, cultural resource specialist at Loneman Elementary School believes changing the name of the state park to Crazy Horse is a great idea, especially considering the historical knowledge about General George Armstrong Custer and his relationship with American Indians in the Dakotas, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Little Finger and Graham alike believe Custer's history with Indian country is reason enough to quickly change the name of this park. Custer was chosen as one of the three leaders of an anti-Lakota expedition into the Black Hills of South Dakota whose ultimate goal was to trap and kill off the majority of the Lakota and Cheyenne Nations of the Dakotas. Custer attacked a peaceful settlement at the Little Bighorn River, which led to the battle where he was killed and remembered as a hero in American history, despite his reckless massacres of American Indians during his three-year military campaign in the American Plains.

United Native America has an lonline petition to support changing the park name, which Graham will provide next year along with the proposed bill to express the importance of this issue for indigenous peoples throughout the United States.