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Colorado geographic naming board to consider renaming 6 places

Some names are considered offensive
View from near summit of Mount Evans
Posted at 8:45 AM, Nov 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-18 11:17:39-05

DENVER — The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board will meet Thursday to discuss renaming six places in the state, some of which have names that are considered offensive and derogatory to people of color.

The names the board will consider changing are: Negro Creek in Delta County, Negro Mesa in Delta County, Unnamed feature in Jefferson County, Chinaman Gulch in Chaffee County, Redskin Mountain in Jefferson County, and Calkins Lake in Weld County.

“Sometimes the name conveys more information about a person’s race than anything else,” said Metropolitan State University Associate History Professor Shelby Balik. “Certain connotations have changed overtime and the word 'negro' is a very good example. Nobody would ever use that word today unless they were quoting somebody.”

The word "negro" was a racial identifier both in society and on government forms from the early to mid 1900s.

But during the 1970s, it fell out of favor and was replaced by African American and Black.

Now, if the term is used to refer to a person of color, it is typically considered inappropriate and offensive.

Balik said other terms have always been considered offensive, such as the name attached to the mountain in Jefferson County, the gulch named after people of Asian descent, and the mountain pertaining to Native Americans.

“Those names have demeaning connotations… The names are dated and insulting,” Balik said. “I think that a wide range of events over the last several years have called us to reevaluate our history and reevaluate the way we remember, like with names and statues.”

Balik said we don’t learn history from mountains or statues, but we can learn history from having conversations about their names.

“Here in Colorado, there was a conversation about the Sand Creek Massacre and that called attention to monuments and mountains named after Evans, who did not specifically instigate the massacre, but he condoned it and he condoned the attitudes that gave rise to it,” Balik said.

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday greenlit changing the name Squaw Mountain in Clear Creek County to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain and looked ahead to even more name changes across the state.

Other major landmarks up for discussion of a name change are Mount Evans, Kit Carson Peak and the Gore Range.