There’s a similarity in letters to the editor by those opposed to renaming Custer Park. For example, Jeff Hoffer wrote in his Jan. 27 letter, “We once lauded Custer for his accomplishments.” That begs the question: Who is included (and excluded) in this “we”?
The most obvious answer is that most Indigenous People in our community are not included in that “we”. Using a limiting reason like that for keeping the name Custer Park is like saying you want to preserve that systematic exclusion. It’s probably long past time to stop doing that, don’t you think?
As for beliefs about Custer’s place in history, it would be accurate to say he was controversial. His wife Libbie spent the remainder of her life, after Custer died at the Battle of Little Big Horn, shoring up her husband’s reputation. I learned history in conservative North Dakota 60 years ago. I did not ever get the sense that Custer was the accomplished war hero some letter writers and park name supporters are claiming today.
While I understand how some people have an emotional attachment to their historical perspective of Custer, I certainly hope we can spend time looking to the future and how we can do better at living together.
Americans talk about many core values that bind us together, such as equality and human dignity. But, with such limited views of who “we” are by those wanting to keep the Custer name, I would like to ask “When will the resistance to equality let up?” As a community, we are more connected and stronger when we open ourselves up to the wonderful diversity of people we live with here. Let’s take a step towards including all of us in the “we” and change the name of the park.
Don Morrison, Bismarck
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