A Colorado state panel recommended Thursday that Mount Evans, a prominent peak near Denver, be renamed Mount Blue Sky, at the request of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board voted unanimously for the change. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will consider the recommendation before the U.S. Board on Geographic Names makes a final decision.
Thursday’s vote comes as part of a national effort to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native Americans and other people of color following protests in 2020 calling for racial justice reform.
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The proposed name change recognizes that the Arapahoe were known as the Blue Sky People, while the Cheyenne hold an annual renewal of life ceremony known as the Blue Sky.
The 14,264-foot peak southwest of Denver is named after John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor. Evans resigned in 1864 after U.S. cavalry massacred more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people — mostly women, children, and the elderly — at what is now Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado.
Fred Mosqueda, a member of the Southern Arapahoe tribe and a descendant of Sand Creek, said during Thursday night’s meeting that when he first realized Mount Blue Sky was a possible alternative, he “got a flash of lightning.” Hit like. It was the perfect name.”
“I was once asked, ‘Why are you so rude to the name Evans?'” he recalled. “And I said to them, ‘Give me one reason to be good or say something good. Show me one thing that Evans has done that I can celebrate as an Arapaho.’ And they couldn’t.”
Mosqueda, who has been active in the Mt. Evans renaming process, said Evans was in the best position as territorial governor to grant reservations to the tribes, but “instead he went down the path of genocide.” “
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Polis, a Democrat, reinstated the state’s 15-member Geographical Naming Panel in July 2020 to make recommendations for review before they are sent to the federal group.
Last year, a federal panel approved renaming another Colorado peak after a Cheyenne woman who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 19th century.
Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain, pronounced “mess-taw-HAY,” is named after an influential interpreter, also known as Owl Woman, who mediated between Native Americans and white traders and soldiers who Now Southern Colorado.
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The mountain 30 miles west of Denver was known as Squaw Mountain. After its name was changed, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Holland, the nation’s first Native American cabinet official, formally declared “squaw” a derogatory term and removed it from use by the federal government and other derogatory terms. Announced measures to rename names.
Squaw, derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant “woman.” But over generations, the word evolved into a misogynistic and racist term to denigrate indigenous women.