CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — The Clear Creek County Board of County Commissioners have voted to rename Mount Evans to honor the Indigenous people of Colorado, and the recommendation will now go on to the state and federal naming boards.
The Mestaa'ehehe Coalition — Mestaa'ehehe means Owl Woman in Cheyenne — said Tuesday's decision came after three weeks of meetings, public comments and discussions.
They recommended the new name of Mount Blue Sky. The Arapaho were known as the Blue Sky People and the Cheyenne have a ceremony each year called Blue Sky, so the coalition decided that name was more appropriate.
"While we know there is still a lot of work ahead, we are celebrating this huge step forward. We can't thank everyone enough for showing up, time and time again, to support tribal voices and Mount Blue Sky," the coalition wrote.
A spokesperson for the Mestaa'ehehe Coalition said the recommendation will now go to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board for consideration. Then, they will pass it along to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who will then pass his recommendation along to the United States Board of Geographic Names, which will make the final decision.
It's not yet clear when the decision will land on the state board's agenda.
Mount Evans stands at 14,264 feet south of Georgetown and west of Evergreen, and is a prominent peak along the Front Range.
It is named after former territorial Gov. John Evans (1862-1865), who authorized the murder of Native Americans in Colorado and was responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, which ended with reportedly hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children killed, according to the Sand Creek Massacre Foundation.
The official petition to rename Mount Evans, which was submitted in 2020, reads: "Mount Evans is a stunningly beautiful Colorado landmark that deserves a name that honors its natural and cultural history. ... Evans was roundly condemned, forced to resign in disgrace, and is not deserving of recognition."
The petition notes the long-time efforts to change the name of the mountain.
In December 2018, the Denver American Indian Commission wrote its support of the name change in a statement that read: "It’s time to discontinue using Evans’ name because we do not honor mass killing of human life for any reason. Colorado’s interest in promoting inclusivity is stronger than any prior interest in honoring a man who is known for politically targeting Tribes (Utes, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota) with messages of hate and fear, of which directly resulted in a massacre of over 160 people, including mostly women and children."
In addition, Evans' great-great grandson, Tom Hayden, said he supported the change, according to KGNU.
Clear Creek County was presented with five different name proposals earlier this year. Aside from Mount Blue Sky, the other recommendations included Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Mount Soule from a private party, Mount Rosalie from a private party, and Mount Evans from a private party (to be re-designated after a different Evans family member).
In December 2021, the U.S. Board on Geographical Names voted to rename Squaw Peak in Clear Creek County to Mount Mestaa'ehehe.
Click here for a proposed list of all Colorado locations that the U.S. Geological Survey is considering for renaming.
Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director for The Wilderness Society — which was involved in the jointly filed petition to rename Mount Evans — said if the mountain is renamed Mount Blue Sky, the Mount Evans Wilderness Area wouldn't automatically change as a result. That would require an Act of Congress.
"But we at The Wilderness Society, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (in Oklahoma) and many of our conservation and recreation partners support changing the name of the Wilderness area to the Mt. Blue Sky Wilderness," Ramey said. "That likely wouldn’t happen until the whole process is complete on changing the name of the mountain."