BHSU celebrates new Lakota name for renovated hillside during ribbon-cutting

The community gathered at a ribbon-cutting to help Black Hills State University celebrate the naming of the recently renovated hillside connecting St. Joe Street to campus. The hillside will now be known by a Lakota name, Oyate Wicaka Wita, meaning People/Nation Gathering Place.

Black Hills State University officially named the newly-renovated hillside on campus "Oyate Wicaka Wita," a Lakota name meaning People/Nation Gathering Place, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.

The new sidewalk and landscaping has transformed the University entrance from St. Joe Street into a green space with walk/bike path that leads directly to the campus green.

BHSU President Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., said naming the hillside connects BHSU to the Spearfish community and to the Lakota heritage of the Black Hills.

"We name this in honor of our Lakota culture and our longstanding history," said Jackson. "With the naming today, we connect ourselves further to the Spearfish community and also to our Lakota heritage. This is a very special day for Black Hills State University."

As the community arrived at the ceremony on Monday, relatives of Jace DeCory, associate professor of history and American Indian Studies at BHSU, smudged and purified the area with sage in a traditional Lakota blessing. They also placed tobacco and water on the base of a tree on the hillside to represent life, thanksgiving, and blessings on the day of the ribbon-cutting.

"It's a special gift to get and give a name," said DeCory. "As the name Oyate Wicaka Wita (pronounced Ohyah'tay weecha'ka Weeta) is in reference to a place that pulls the people/nation to it, like a magnet and they feel good about being there, we hope this hillside will pull the people here to spend time at this University, and in this place," said DeCory.

Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke was also present for the ceremony and noted the symbolic connection to the campus and expressed appreciation of BHSU creating access points to the world by providing experiences and growth opportunities to students.

Boke also congratulated BHSU on the recent designation as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.

"BHSU and Spearfish have shared, core values of stewardship of our natural resources and an understanding of the environment's value in our daily lives," said Boke. "I congratulate BHSU on a great vision. This is an asset to campus and to the community."

More than 100 people attended the naming ceremony.