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Thursday, August 18, 2016


by Amy Brunvand

“A federal board on Thursday renamed Harney Peak in the Black Hills to Black Elk Peak, saying the name of the state's highest peak was derogatory to Native Americans because Harney was a general whose soldiers massacred Indians. Basil Brave Heart, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, proposed the change to Black Elk Peak as a tribute to a Lakota spiritual leader who died in the mid-20th century. —Rapid City (SD) Journal, August 12, 2016. Photo: Black Elk Peak Summit Tower via Insert: Nicholas Black Elk via Rapid City Journal.

“There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.” —Black Elk

A horned white ghost
Stinking of piss and musk

Drifts on muffled hooves
Through the ruined tower

Alert for fires blazing
In the hoop of the world.

Tattered scraps
Of faded red cloth

Knotted on the boughs
Of an ancient juniper

Flutter in bitter wind
Whispering prayers

For the people who came
To tie them there.

Amy Brunvand is a librarian, writer and part-time nature mystic in Salt Lake City, Utah.