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CHADRON, Neb. -- Part of the Bridges to Buttes Scenic Highway will now honor a fallen Native American hero.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved last week the naming of a stretch of U.S. Highway 20 from Hay Springs to Fort Robinson State Park as Crazy Horse Memorial Highway. A group of Chadron individuals began seeking the designation more than a year ago.

Dr. John Gamby, a local veterinarian, was one of those leading the charge. He said last year that he had noticed commemorative highway signs in other parts of the state and believed naming part of  U.S. 20 after Crazy Horse would be an appropriate recognition of Crazy Horse’s important place in the region’s history.

“That’s good news.” Gamby said after learning the governor had approved the request. “I think it’s a worthy cause.”

The segment of Highway 20 is not the only highway named as a memorial to Crazy Horse. U.S. Highway 16/385 between Custer, S.D., and Hill City, S.D., received the same designation in 2009. There also is an effort under way to name a highway on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after the Lakota leader.

Gamby said no one with influence on the shaping of this region was more widely known than Crazy Horse as he sought to protect his way of life. Crazy Horse, a Lakota warrior and chief, was born in what is now South Dakota and fought U.S. soldiers in Wyoming, living part of his life in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge area. He eventually surrendered to the government at Camp Sheridan, north of Hay Springs, Neb., in September 1877. The U.S. Army transferred him to the military post at Camp (Fort) Robinson, where he was killed while resisting imprisonment.

While Gamby said he is excited about the new designation, he hopes it is taken in the right context.

“I hope this is taken as a memorial rather than as a commercial thing,” he said.

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Plans originally called for the designation to extend from Valentine to Fort Robinson.

Sandy Powell, Chadron city manager, said there was interest from the Rosebud Reservation in having the designation stretch to Valentine. However, the resolution of support -- required from cities and counties along the route -- wasn’t turned in until after the deadline, limiting the memorial to the highway between Hay Springs and Fort Robinson, Powell said. All of the information has been forwarded to Cherry County though, and individuals there can petition to have the designated route lengthened to include Valentine.

Powell said plans are in the works to formally dedicate the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway during the annual Crazy Horse Ride in June 2011.

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