PIERRE | Get the new signs and letterhead ready: Oglala Lakota County is now the official name of what used to be known as Shannon County.
The Nov. 4 decision by local voters to change their county’s name from Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County completed its official recognition Thursday by the Legislature, as the state Senate gave final approval to the required joint resolution. The measure does not require the signature of the governor to become law.
The 32-2 tally in the Senate followed a 64-5 vote by the House of Representatives on Feb. 18. The resolution’s prime sponsor is Rep. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge, who worked on the petition drive that collected the necessary signatures to put the matter on the ballot.
Shannon County was founded in 1875 and named after Peter C. Shannon, a white chief justice of the Dakota Territory Supreme Court. After leaving the court, Shannon was appointed by the government in 1882 and 1884 to help negotiate land deals with the Lakota.
In the November referendum, 80 percent of Shannon County voters supported changing the name to better reflect the heritage of county's population and history.
During the petition drive, many Shannon County residents said they felt their county name did a disservice to the culture and heritage of the Oglala Lakota people who make up a significant part of the population of the county that resides within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
At the time, Jesse Short Bull, who gathered signatures for the ballot, said that Shannon County was a name chosen by the territorial Legislature without any input from the Lakota, who he said would have rejected the name. Short Bull said at the time that for Oglala Lakota tribal members like himself, Peter Shannon embodied the changes forced upon his people; from governance changes to the introduction of private property ownership. "He was part of that spear that brought all of that upon us," Short Bull said last year.
Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, was the resolution’s lead sponsor in the Senate. He gave credit to former legislators Paul Valandra, Larry Lucas and the late Dick Hagen who years ago passed the current version of the law allowing county name changes.
“All three of those people were very significant accomplishing this,” Bradford said. “It’s a fitting thing.”
He noted this would be last time the Legislature is involved. Another measure moving through the legislative process would remove the requirement that the change come before the Legislature.
Bradford acknowledged local officials aren’t sure where they will find the funds to make the various changes needed on items such as letterhead, signs, logos and equipment.
Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke said, “This is a step in the right direction.”
“It really is government at its local level,” Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic said. “This is democracy in action. They have made this choice.”