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 weigh in on the recommendation before a final decision by the US Board on Geographic Names. The proposed name change recognizes the Arapaho were known as the Blue Sky People, while the Cheyenne hold an annual renewal-of-life ceremony called Blue Sky, the AP reports.
The 14,264-foot peak southwest of Denver is named after John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor. Evans resigned after an 1864 US cavalry massacre of more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people—most of them women, children, and the elderly—at Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado. Fred Mosqueda, a member of the Southern Arapaho tribe and a Sand Creek descendant, said during Thursday night's meeting that when he first realized Mount Blue Sky was a possible alternative, it "hit me like a bolt of lightning. It was the perfect name."
"I was asked once, 'Why are you so mean to the name Evans?'" he recalled. "And I told them, 'Give me one reason to be nice or to say something good. Show me one thing that Evans has done that I as Arapaho can celebrate.' And they could not." Mosqueda, who has been actively involved in Mount Evans' renaming process, said Evans was in the perfect position as territorial governor to give the tribes a reservation, but "instead he went the genocide route.” Evans founded the University of Denver. He also co-founded Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, which is named after him. Reports on Evans from both universities played a big role in the push to change the mountain's name, the Journal reports.
A University of Denver committee concluded that Evans' decisions and failures, including a "pattern of neglect of his treaty-negotiating duties," created the "conditions in which the massacre was highly likely." The Northwestern committee said his conduct after the massacre "reveals a deep moral failure that warrants condemnation." He "refused to acknowledge, let alone criticize, what had happened," the committee said. (In June, a Yellowstone peak named after an Army officer who led a massacre was renamed.)