Applause erupted from the crowd as they listened to a federal board’s decision to rename Mount Evans in Colorado to Mount Blue Sky. Some of those cheering were listening virtually as the U.S. …
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Applause erupted from the crowd as they listened to a federal board’s decision to rename Mount Evans in Colorado to Mount Blue Sky. Some of those cheering were listening virtually as the U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted 15-1 in favor of the change. Three members abstained in the vote, which took place in Oregon.
“This was the final step in the renaming process,” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Gov. Reggie Wassana after the vote.
The name change takes effect immediately. Wassana said he was glad what had become a long, drawn-out process over the name of the more than 14,000-foot peak in Clear Creek County ended with a solid vote.
“It is a huge step, not only for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people but also for… other allies who worked diligently to begin the healing process, bringing honor to a monumental and majestic mountain,” Wassana said.
The new name for the mountain comes from the Blue Sky Ceremony, a ceremony for all living things, including “men, women, children, plants, earth, water, life,” Chester Whiteman of the Southern Cheyenne tribe said.
Months-long delay on expected vote to rename in March
In an unexpected twist, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names deferred a vote that would have changed the name of Mount Evans back in March.
At the last minute, the Northern Cheyenne tribe objected to Mount Blue Sky and requested a formal consultation, according to William Walks, a tribal administrator.
That set in motion a series of discussions culminating in a meeting between tribal leaders and the Department of Interior in June.
Several other names were suggested, including Mount Soule, Mount Rosalie, Mount Sisty and Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, according to the US Board on Geographic Names.
In the end, the board voted on only one name: Mount Blue Sky.
“Changing its name was long overdue, and I thank the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes for leading this effort,” said Jim Ramey, Colorado state director for The Wilderness Society, a nonprofit conservation organization.
History of namesake Gov. John Evans
Indigenous groups say the mountain celebrated an era of terror. The mountain was named for Colorado’s territorial governor from 1862-1865, John Evans, who played a role in enabling the Sand Creek Massacre.
“Anytime you have to hear of or speak of an individual who wanted to decimate your family or your tribe, it's really hard,” Wassana said in a November 2022 Clear Creek Courant article.
On a November morning in 1864, U.S. Army Col. John Chivington and elements of the Colorado Infantry Regiment of Volunteers and Regiment of Colorado Cavalry Volunteers launched an attack on Arapaho and Cheyenne civilians where they camped about 180 miles southeast of Denver. Over the course of eight hours, the troops slaughtered some 230 people, many of them women, children and elderly, according to the National Park Service, which maintains a national historic site in the area where the events occurred.
In 1895, the mountain was named for Evans after settlers lobbied the legislature to honor him.
“We are grateful for all of the efforts of Tribal Nations to make this much-needed renaming a reality,” said Native Lands Partnership Director Starlyn Miller. “May the mountain be a place that no longer inflicts sorrow and grief but rather a place that brings comfort and healing.”
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