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Colorado Gov. Polis recommends changing name of Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky

Mount Evans
Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 11:23:01-05

UPDATE | March 9, 9 a.m. — The decision on the Mount Evans name change proposals was deferred on the morning of March 9. According to the USGS, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names received a request from a Tribal government for government-to-government consultation.

It continues: "In accordance with the Department of the Interior Departmental Manual 512 DM 5.5.A.6, titled 'Intergovernmental Relations: Procedures for Consultation with Indian Tribes,' the decision has been made to defer today’s vote.  The manual states, 'A Tribe may request that the Department initiate consultation when the Tribe believes that a Bureau/Office is considering a Departmental Action with Tribal Implications.'  The BGN will be notified at the start of the meeting that no decision will be made today, nor will there be any discussion of the pending proposals."

The board did approve the names Clay Mesa and Clay Creek for two Delta County landmarks.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has formally recommended that Mount Evans be renamed to Mount Blue Sky, and the final decision now lies with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

That board will make the final decision on the renaming of the 14,264-foot mountain, which is south of Georgetown and west of Evergreen.

Gov. Polis sent a letter to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on Feb. 28 to recommend renaming both Mount Evans in Clear Creek County and Negro Creek and Negro Mesa in Delta County. According to the board's upcoming agenda, it will take up all three renamings at a March 9 meeting. For Mount Evans, it will look at six proposed names: Mount Blue Sky, Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, Mount Evans (redefined for John Evans' daughter, Anne Evans), Mount Rosalie, Mount Sisty and Mount Soule.

The process started in March 2022, when the Clear Creek County Commissioners voted to rename Mount Evans to honor the Indigenous people of Colorado. Last October, the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board (CGNAB) began hearing from groups who wanted to change the name. After they recommended the change in November 2022, they passed it along to Gov. Polis.

READ MORE: New Denver mural supports effort to rename Mt. Evans

Polis' letter started by explaining why the three locations should be renamed. It reads:

"The process leading to, and resulting in the CGNAB’s recommendation to rename Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky was well developed including with a broad diversity of stakeholders, Tribal consultation, local government buy-in and leadership, and significant public input, including feedback from living descendents of then Territorial Governor John Evans. Local buy-in and leadership is a critical element in this process and both the Mt. Evans proposal and the proposal to rename Negro Creek have this element strongly in common. With specific respect to the renaming of Mt. Evans, it is worth underscoring the long-time and early expressed desire for the renaming from Clear Creek County itself, drawing upon their own extensive consideration process, as well as the support of Jefferson County and the City of Denver Parks Department which operates recreational activities at the mountain."

Mount Evans is currently named after Gov. John Evans, the second territorial of the state. According to the Sand Creek Massacre Foundation, Evans authorized the murder of Native Americans in Colorado and was responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. More than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members were killed in the massacre. Evans was forced to resign in 1865 after outcries.

New Denver mural supports effort to rename Mt. Evans

The letter continued to explain that this renaming would not erase the "complicated history" of Gov. Evans.

"His role, including as a founder of both the University of Denver and Northwestern University, his role in bringing the railroad to Denver forever changing the course of the city and the state, his impact on the medical profession, and his opposition to slavery and close relationship to Abraham Lincoln in his early life in Illinois are an important part of our history," it reads. "However, as History Colorado has noted, he had a glaring blind-spot for the rights and even the very humanity of Native Americans."

Keeping such a controversial and, for many people, painful, name pinned to one of the state's tallest peaks "only diminishes its stately presence and breathtaking beauty," the letter continues. "We need a name that pays homage to the beauty that is this great mountain. The broadly recommended name, Mount Blue Sky, pays direct homage to the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples and to our frequent sunny weather and blue skies."

With that, Polis wrote that he concurs with the Clear Creek County and CGNAB’s recommendation to rename Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky.

On Friday after this was announced, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet said they supported this official recommendation to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

“The names we give Colorado’s greatest landmarks should honor the entirety of our history," Hickenlooper said in a press release. "Mount Blue Sky acknowledges the Native peoples who first called Colorado home. The act of renaming the mountain altogether helps directly face a very dark part of our history."

He added that the act of renaming the mountain "helps directly face a very dark part of our history."

"The renaming of Mt. Evans to Mount Blue Sky is an important step in addressing the wrongs done to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Native people across the country," Bennet said. "This was a thoughtful process, led by local Colorado communities and Tribes, and I’m grateful to everyone who contributed to this moment."

Polis also applauded students at Cedaredge High School and the Delta County community for coming up with the name Clay Creek and Clay Mesa to replace the names Negro Creek and Negro Mesa. He made the same renaming recommendations to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The board's agenda for March 9 also includes these two locations.

Click here for a proposed list of all Colorado locations that the U.S. Geological Survey is considering for renaming.

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