Iconic Spot in National Park May Revert to Tribal Name

Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains park could return to Cherokee 'Kuwahi'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2022 9:19 AM CDT
Iconic Spot in National Park May Get a New Name
The observation tower at Clingsman Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   (Getty/SeanPavonePhoto)

The highest point in Great Smoky National Park is now on track to revert to its Cherokee name. The Native American tribe's eastern council last week backed a plan to request that Clingsman Dome be renamed Kuwahi, reports WBIR. The request will now be forwarded to federal officials, specifically the US Board on Geographic Names and the National Park Service, per Outside magazine. The process could take awhile, but there is precedent: Yellowstone this year changed the name of Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain, and then-President Obama changed the name of the nation's highest peak from Mt. McKinley to Denali.

Clingsman Dome is not only the highest point in the park but the highest point in all of Tennessee, notes the NPS. An observation tower at the site provides a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks in both Tennessee and North Carolina. Two Cherokee women drafted the tribal legislation to seek the name change, per the One Feather, and Outside provides the background. Geologist Arnold Guyot (who supported "the superiority of certain races" in his research) named the peak in 1859 after Sen. Thomas Clingman, who would later become a Confederate general.

“The history of the renaming of Kuwahi to ‘Clingmans Dome’ shows that the name of Clingman was designated by a proponent of scientific racism (Guyot) on behalf of an avowed racist (Clingman), in an action that was disrespectful to Cherokee people, culture, history and tradition,” reads the tribal resolution. The site is a sacred spot to the Cherokee, and its name of Kuwahi means "Mulberry Place" in English. The locale is also popular with thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. (Read more Great Smoky Mountains stories.)

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