Valentine Trant McGillycuddy

Harney Peak

South Dakota

May 2015

The building on Harney Peak, the Harney Peak Fire Tower.  Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, possibly the most substantial fire lookout in all the forests.  It more resembles a castle than some of the birds nest towers used by the Rangers.

A plaque is affixed to one of the stones on this tower.  Written in Old English Script…

Valentine T McGillycuddy


1849 – 1939

Doctor McGillycuddy is credited as the first person to climb Harney Peak.  This is total hooey.  Uncounted Natives had scaled this mountain previously, just never documented it, never boasted about it.

Let’s not judge the doctor too harshly for this unrequested, undeserved accolade.  He was a good guy.

In spite of resistance and ridicule from his fellow white people, he was tireless in his attempts to forge a sustainable relationship between the Native Americans and the United States.  Wasicu Wakan, as he was called by the people who lived here before, translates to “Holy White Man.”  This Holy White Man is the only person buried on this summit.

Dr McGillycuddy was the surgeon who attended to Crazy Horse when he was fatally wounded by a white soldier.  The Natives then began to address him as Tasunka Witko Kola which means “Crazy Horse’s friend.”

Two more things about Valentine Trant McGillycuddy, who was named after the holiday on which he was born.  For one, he was a very busy man.  In addition to his doctoring of white and red people alike, he surveyed and mapped this area, made a trip to Washington D C to protest government treatment of the Indian population, served as mayor of Rapid City, was a college president and member of the State Constitutional Convention.

Second, he grew a raucous, startling mustache, one of the best ever, like the horns of a steer.  And hanging below, the beard of a goat.  VTM:  Man of the people.  All of the people.

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