N.D. lawmakers push name change of hill on Spirit Lake Reservation

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North Dakota’s congressional delegation has introduced legislation to change the name of “Sully’s Hill,” a national game preserve administered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, to “White Horse Hill,” its traditional Dakota name.

Because the original name came through an act of Congress, it takes another act of Congress to change it.

The federal government named the preserve in 1931 after General Alfred Sully, a military officer during the Civil War and the Indian Wars.

Sully has been implicated in a number of Native American killings including a September 3, 1863 massacre in the Dakota Territory, where his troops destroyed an Indian village and killed 300 people.

Senator Kevin Cramer introduced the legislation in the U.S. Senate; and Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined as an original cosponsor.

“The Spirit Lake Tribe does not need a name within their land that reminds them of the atrocities committed against their ancestors,” Cramer in a statement. “The Dakota people hold the name ‘White Horse Hill’ as sacred, and I hope we pass this legislation to honor the history of this land and the wishes of this tribe.”

“This return to its historic name will honor the heritage of this area and the Spirit Lake Tribe,” added Hoeven.

Representative Kelly Armstrong introduced an identical bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This is the wish of the Spirit Lake Tribe, and we should honor their request,” said Armstrong.

The tribe, in cooperation with the governor’s office and North Dakota’s Department of Tourism, requested the hill return to its historic Dakota name and expressed support for this legislation.

“The Tribal Council is aware and fully supports a proposed name change from the present name of’ Sully’s Hill’ to ‘White Horse Hill’,” the Spirit Lake Tribe wrote in a resolution.

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