Residents weigh in on Custer Park renaming

Published: Dec. 19, 2019 at 9:48 PM CST
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A Bismarck group has requested that the Parks and Rec Board change the name of Custer Park because of George Armstrong Custer's wars against Native Americans.

Another hot-button topic in Bismarck. Another packed meeting. This time, with a park at the forefront of the debate.

Custer Park is named after Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, a leader in the Civil War who also fought against Native Americans before his death at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Some residents say the name is culturally insensitive.

"What are we saying? What are we upholding? The legacy associated with that name is a dark time and it shouldn't be celebrated and it directly excludes a lot of people in our community," said Melanie Moniz, Rename Custer Park organizer.

While others say renaming the park would erase history, pointing to Custer's presence in the area.

"People need to know that the history of a nation being formed is...bad things happen, great things happen and you just need to know that it wasn't easy and people get killed and bad things happen to people," said Jaime Brecht, Bismarck resident.

The Bismarck Parks and Recreational Board tabled the issue for now, saying they don't have enough information. The board's president asked his staff to create a procedure for renaming a park and for naming new parks before proceeding.

"That's why I'd like to have more information on policy because we need to have a sound reason to make any decision we make, whether it is to keep the name or whether it is to change the name," said Brian Beattie, Bismarck Parks and Recreational Board president.

Those who held a neutral stance on the issue tell us they think the discussion between city officials and the public is important.

The board hopes to present their ideas for a naming procedure at their next meeting in February.​