Amid a renewed public interest in removing symbols of racism, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis created a board Thursday to evaluate proposed name changes for geographic and public places across the state.
“This new board will play a critical role in the ongoing celebration of our Colorado history through place names and ensure that we have inclusivity and transparency around the naming process,” Polis said in a statement announcing the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board through an executive order.
“This bipartisan board will ensure that a broad spectrum of Coloradans, local communities and Colorado’s land-based Tribes can collaborate on any potential naming or renaming of Colorado geological points or landmarks.”
The board will be tasked with providing recommendations on name change proposals to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
Fourteen petitions are pending to rename locations in Colorado, including Mount Evans in Clear Creek County, Redskin Mountain in Jefferson County and Squaw Mountain in Clear Creek County, according to the federal board’s records.
Mount Evans was named after John Evans, a territorial governor who was forced to resign because of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. U.S. soldiers attacked and killed the Cheyenne and Arapahoe people in southeastern Colorado territory, even after they had tried to broker peace.
Redskin and squaw are both slurs used against Native Americans, with the latter being used to degrade women.
There also were requests to change names such as Negro Creek, Negro Draw and Negro Mesa in Delta and Montezuma counties, as well as Chinaman Gulch in Chaffee County.
And some also have objected to Kit Carson Mountain, named after the Colorado rancher who helped crush a Navajo uprising in the 1800s.
“The people whose names are on these places are people who really did some terrible things to Native people,” said Colorado historian Sam Bock of History Colorado. And for many tribes, these incidents weren’t in the distant past but affected family members in recent history.
Colorado historians have been working with 48 different tribes that lived in Colorado before they were driven out, most recently the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes.
“Many of those geographic locations have been celebrations of European invasion and colonialism and sometimes Spanish invasion and colonialism,” said Glenn Morris of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, a Shawnee. Plus, all of these places had indigenous names with meanings for indigenous people, Morris said.
Eugene Black Bear Jr. of the Cheyenne Tribe in Oklahoma reflects on his own family’s history every time he hears names like that of Mount Evans. He had family members who were killed in the Sand Creek Massacre. His great-great grandmother survived and his family was pushed out to Oklahoma.
“It has a traumatic impact on our spiritual well-being,” he said of the Evans namesake. “This massacre that happened, it was tragic.”
Although this movement has been a “long time coming,” it was reignited after the latest Black Lives Matter protests and calls for removing statues from racist regimes, said Fred Mosqueda of the southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. Mosqueda said he’s glad to see calls for name changes in his ancestral homeland.
But it’s about more than just a name for many Native Americans.
It’s about seeing Native Americans “not as savages or fiends or anything like that, but we’re actually humans,” Mosqueda said.
The heightened attention to names and the histories they represent has led to an increase in inquiries to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, said researcher Jennifer Runyon, but it has not yet increased the petition requests. They require a lot of work and discussion with tribes and other affected communities. They also have to include a suggestion for a new name that has been well-researched.
Colorado used to provide input to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for changes through a state advisory board before it was eliminated and the task fell to the Colorado State Archives. But since the archivist retired in 2016, the U.S. board has been waiting for a new person or group to be named to make recommendations. It didn’t happen until Thursday, leaving Colorado as one of only two states in the last four years without an entity to provide naming recommendations to the federal agency, Runyon said.
Although the federal board isn’t required to seek official state recommendations, its members prefer to hear from the states themselves. Colorado state officials asked the U.S. board to hold off on voting on any of the state’s name change requests until they had established a new board.
Source: Read Full Article