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Now it’s called Mount Blue Sky, after federal board votes to rename Mount Evans

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) The U.S Board of Geographic Names voted Friday afternoon to rename Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky, honoring the indigenous Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes.

The mountain had been named after former territorial governor John Evans. Historians say Evans authorized the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 that killed over 200 noncombatant Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women and children, in southeastern Colorado.

“Any time you do a shamefual act, such as attacking the Cheyenne and the Arapaho during what they perceived to be as a time of peace … you don’t celebrate somebody by putting their name on a mountain,” Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana told Newsline.

Now, the 14,265-foot mountain in Clear Creek County, which boasts the highest paved road in North America and offers visitors views of the Continental Divide, is known as Mount Blue Sky.

The Arapaho people are known as “Blue Sky people” by some other tribes, and the Southern Cheyenne have an annual ceremony known as Blue Sky.

The vote was 15 people in favor for the name change, one opposed and three abstained.

“It’s the name Evans. If it was named Sunflower Mountain or something like that, we would not complain. When Cheyenne and Araphoe see that name, they automatically think of Sand Creek and the atrocities that happened to our forefathers,” Fred Mosqueda, the Arapaho language and culture program coordinator for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, told Newsline.

Mosqueda helped History Colorado with an exhibit on the Sand Creek Massacre last year.

The Clear Creek County commissioners voted to rename the mountain in March 2022 and the decision then went to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, which voted in favor of the change in November 2022. Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis formally recommended the name change to the national board.

It’s the name Evans. If it was named Sunflower Mountain or something like that, we would not complain.

– Fred Mosqueda, Arapaho language and culture program coordinator for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

In March, when the federal board was first set to vote on the name change, someone with the Northern Cheyenne tribe requested a tribal consultation process, which delayed the vote until Friday. A tribal consultation process that brings in official representatives of tribes and federal agencies to discuss proposals that affects the tribe. The objection concerned using a name related to the sacred Cheyenne ceremony.

“These things take time. While there are differences of opinion, I think there’s overwhelming agreement that the name has to be changed,” Chris Hammond, the head of the Office of Tribal Relations at the U.S. Geological Survey, said Friday.

The other names considered Friday were Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, Mount Rosalie, Mount Sisty, Mount Soule and a redesignation of Mount Evans to honor Anne Evans, John’s youngest daughter.

Mosqueda said he sees the name change as part of a reconciliation process.

“People in Colorado, they see the names on the streets and on the mountains like Cheyenne Mountain, the Arapaho Forest, but they don’t know who we are,” he said. “That education needs to come. The true history needs to be told to tie it all together.”

Mount Blue Sky is not the only recent change to names of geographic features in Colorado. Another mountain in Clear Creek County was renamed to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain in 2021. It was formerly known as Sq*** Mountain, with a slur used to describe indigenous women.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Interior removed the slur from 28 additional sites in Colorado.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.