Dead Warrior Lake / Black Kettle Recreation Area
Dead Warrior Lake, a.k.a. Dead Indian Lake or Black Kettle Lake, is part of the Black Kettle National Grasslands Recreation Area. The 80-acre lake has 3 miles of shoreline and is open year round. Amenities include 12 primitive campsites, restrooms, outdoor grills, picnic areas, boat ramps/docks and a nature trail.
North of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, about 9 miles on US 283. Look for park sign.
Lake Name Changed
Dead Warrior Lake christened
By Josh Rabe, The Daily Oklahoman, Nov 4, 2006.
CHEYENNE - Call it what you want, but officially, there no longer is a Dead Indian Lake in Roger Mills County.
The official name now is Dead Warrior Lake, ending for some a controversy over the lake's name that has been going on for almost a decade.
The final decision on the lake's name came in June, when the U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted to change the name, which it considered offensive to American Indians.
But the decision has had little effect at the local level.
"Too many of us are fourth or fifth generation here and our grandfathers homesteaded this area. We always knew it as Dead Indian Lake," said Leona Keahey, who lives about two miles west of the 80-acre lake.
That has been the lake's name since a dam was built on Dead Indian Creek in the 1950s to create the lake, and the name followed naturally. The first settlers in the area came up with the name after discovering a Cheyenne burial site.
Cottonwoods that lined the creek made for a perfect burial site near the tribe's winter camp.
A Norman woman challenged the name in 1997, complaining the name was too similar to a notorious saying attributed to Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."
The Oklahoma Board on Geographic names took up the issue and spent eight years trying to reach a decision on whether to change a name that had local historical value or keep it at the risk of being offensive, said Wayne Furr, the board's secretary. After nine years, the federal board stepped in, changing the names to Dead Warrior Creek and Dead Warrior Lake.
"We really could not come to a recommendation that would be for the best interests of everybody in the state," Furr said.
At the lake, virtually nothing has changed as a result of the decision, said Tom Smeltzer, a district ranger at the Black Kettle National Grassland.
Locals who wanted to preserve the lake's name put up two 8-foot signs on private property near entrances to the lake that bore the original name, but those are now gone, Smeltzer said.
On park maps the lake has no name. The road signs pointing to the lake only mention the adjoining Black Kettle Recreation Area but don't name the lake.
Those changes came about when the conflict first arose and park officials were unsure of the lake's fate. Smeltzer said he doesn't plan to change maps or signs any time soon, citing continuing local confusion.
"Even in our office, we still call it Dead Indian Lake," Smeltzer said. "Maybe in another 50 years or so people will be using the new name but probably not any time soon."