Panel: Meade Co. creek should be renamed Howes CreekPIERRE — A South Dakota panel responsible for getting rid of offensive place names recommended Tuesday that Negro Creek in Meade County be renamed Howes Creek in honor of the nearby post office and store.
By: Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press
PIERRE — A South Dakota panel responsible for getting rid of offensive place names recommended Tuesday that Negro Creek in Meade County be renamed Howes Creek in honor of the nearby post office and store.
The state Board on Geographic Names is using the western South Dakota creek as a test case for a new process aimed at increasing public involvement in changing offensive names of places, most of which use the terms “Negro” or “Squaw.”
After receiving dozens of suggestions for new names, the panel last month narrowed its list to three candidates.
The board on Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend that the small waterway be renamed Howes Creek because it’s near Howes, an unincorporated settlement that includes a post office, gas station and general store at the intersection of South Dakota Highways 34 and 73 about 100 miles west of Pierre.
Board member Jay Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, said Howes was established as a post office in 1940. It was named for W.W. Howes, who ran unsuccessfully for South Dakota governor in 1920 and served as an assistant U.S. postmaster general from 1933 to 1940.
If anyone objects to the proposed name in the next 45 days, the board will hold a public hearing in the area near Howes. If no one objects, the name will be submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which has the final say on naming places.
The board also had considered naming the creek Bob Lee Creek in honor of western historian and writer Bob Lee, or Rebecca Buffington Creek for a woman reported to have died of diphtheria nearly a century ago while treating Native Americans ill with the same disease. Vogt said Lee lived in western Meade County, far from the creek on the county’s eastern edge, and Buffington apparently lived near Shadehill, about 90 miles north of the creek. LaVonne Hansen, postmaster and owner of the Howes Store, said area residents who gather for morning coffee at the store prefer the board’s choice.
“They say if they’re going to change it, they just as well change it to Howes and not some of those other long names,” she said.
State Rep. Dean Wink of Howes asked the board earlier this year to make Negro Creek its test case for the public involvement process. He said the 9-mile creek that runs through his ranch was apparently named Negro Creek because a black family lived there decades ago.
Board members said they would prefer to name the creek in honor of that black family, but no one knows the family’s name.
“We just can’t find it,” Vogt said. “People are still looking, but it does not appear to be an easy find.”
The 2001 South Dakota Legislature passed a law to start eliminating offensive names, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has since changed the names of 20 places in the state. Another state law passed in 2009 listed 15 names that hadn’t been changed and created the new state board to tackle the job.
However, the federal board has deferred action on some name changes, partly because it said the state had not sufficiently involved the public in renaming creeks, gulches and other offensively named places. Most places are so small they do not appear on most maps, officials have said.
The state board decided Tuesday to deal next with name changes in Shannon County, which includes a big part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. At least four places in Shannon County include the name “Squaw.”
The panel plans to hold a meeting Dec. 4 somewhere on the reservation to get initial public comments on renaming those four places.