Dr. Craig Howe started the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2004. Since then, Craig has been hosting workshops at the CAIRNS headquarters, Wingsprings. Based on their four “R’s”–rigor, reliability, respect, and relevance–CAIRNS trains educators to teach Native and non-Native students about the Oceti Sakowin (“People of the Seven Council Fires,” commonly called the “Great Sioux Nation”), whose land all South Dakotans inhabit. Working with collaborators like Dr. Harvey Markowitz, CAIRNS is constantly engaged in a variety of projects, all centered around their mission: advancing “knowledge and understanding of American Indian communities and the issues important to them.”
In the spring of 2015, CAIRNS named me the first of what we hope will become a wide network of Research Fellows — scholars and other professionals interested in work that complements the CAIRNS mission statement. As my first task for CAIRNS, I authored a statement supporting a name change for Harney Peak, South Dakota’s tallest mountain, to its Lakota name, Hinhan Kaga. Even though General William S. Harney likely never stepped foot on the mountain, one of his topographical engineers ascribed Harney’s name on the Black Hills in the late-1850s. It has remained there ever since. In 2014, several Lakota elders began an initiative requesting that the South Dakota Board of Geographical Names officially replace the name “Harney Peak,” given General Harney’s ugly and violent legacy in the Black Hills and elsewhere. The CAIRNS statement outlines a clear rationale for why renaming Harney Peak to Hinhan Kaga is the most appropriate course of action. It was submitted to the Board at a public meeting in April 2015. You can read it here: CAIRNS_Statement on Harney Peak Renaming.
I am a huge supporter of CAIRNS and the work Craig and his collaborators do there. Accordingly, I’ve contributed to their work by participating in workshops, offering research assistance on a few other projects, and by raising funds and awareness. In 2012, I ran the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon (in 3:59:57–just three seconds ahead of my 4:00 goal!), raising nearly $4,000 for CAIRNS along the way. It might not be scholarship, but the effort supported some important work!