• Shalom Baer

RG Editorial: Custer Park should stay Custer Park

According to the Bismark Tribune, two women, Ali Quarne and M. Angel Moniz, started a campaign to change the name of Custer Park located in downtown Bismark, North Dakota’s capitol. The park is the oldest in the city at 93-years-old.

It’s named after Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who lived from 1839-1876. He fought in the Civil War, but what he’s best known for is his role in the American Indian Wars. Custer was responsible for the deaths and forced relocation of many Native Americans, eventually meeting his own end at the famous Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Moniz and Quarne argue that the name of the park is alienating to indigenous members of the community and should be changed to something more inclusive. They have suggested Unity Park, Harmony Park, or Eagle Park.

The question at hand here isn’t about whether Custer was an ethical person. Clearly, he did horrible things during his lifetime. However, Custer is a significant, influential character of history, especially the history of the Western states. And we shouldn’t simply erase anyone who has done something horrible.

For example, George Washington fought to liberate the colonies while owning slaves. Rather than removing his name from our national monuments, we should have conversations about the complexity of our Founding Fathers and military figures alike.

Custer fought a war to abolish slavery in the South right before fighting a war of conquest in the West. That war of conquest ultimately led to the American West being what it is today. Bismark may not exist without Custer. Does that excuse what Custer did during his lifetime? No. However, for better or for worse, Custer played a major role in our country’s expansion, and removing his name is closing our eyes to a part of our history, not facing it.

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