Thunder Butte

March 08, 2005

Thunder Butte's Name

In a history of Ziebach County, published in 1982, the native American name for Thunder Butte is given as "Wakanganhotan." The meaning is said to be "place of holy thunder." "Wakanganhotan" is probably a corruption of two Lakota words: "wakinyan" and "hotan," which mean, respectively, "thunder bird" or "thunder," and "calls out." The name would be understood to mean a place from which the thunder bird or thunder calls out. To the modern Lakota on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, the butte is called "Wakinyan Paha," which translates as "thunder bird" or "thunder" butte (or hill or mountain).

While the name is closely analogous to what the butte is called today in English, the English version of the name does not give any sense of the religious significance of the butte. For the Lakota, the Thunder Bird is a sacred entity, one of the messengers of the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. The thunder we hear issuing from the sky is the the call of this holy messenger. Thunder Butte is an important place from which the calls of this messenger can often be heard. Thunder Butte also is a place to which many Lakota go to experience a "vision quest," a ritual in which the seeker asks Wakan Tanka for spiritual insight or help.
Mike Crowley Tuesday, March 08, 2005


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