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Photographer knew Black Elk and supports peak's name change

Photographer Bill Groethe points to Black Elk in the center of the picture of the survivors of...
Photographer Bill Groethe points to Black Elk in the center of the picture of the survivors of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. (KOTA)
Published: Aug. 19, 2016 at 5:09 PM CDT
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Harney Peak will soon be known as Black Elk Peak. South Dakota's governor confirms he will not fight the decision of the US Board of Geographic names.

Harney Peak had been named for General William Harney, whose soldiers killed Native Americans. Some found the name offensive.

People are now anxious to see pictures and learn more about Native leader Chief Nicholas Black Elk. He was a warrior and medicine man, a visionary who was revered by his people.

Bill Groethe photographed Nicholas Black Elk many times. He says even in his 90's and blind, Black Elk drew respect. "He was very quiet, very reserved and proud."

Groethe has famous photos from the reunion of the survivors of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, taken in Custer State Park in 1948. The photos are priceless.

"They're the most historical (part of my collection) because there aren't any other pictures like it. There wasn't anybody else there. I did the best I could to save it. They're in the Smithsonian. They're recognized as important history," said Groethe.

Groethe knew and respected Black Elk and strongly supports the name change to Black Elk Peak.

Ironically, the day the governor announced he would accept the change to Black Elk Peak was the anniversary of the medicine man's death, August 19, 1950.