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Changing name of Colorado's Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky is 'sacrilegious,' Northern Cheyenne leader says

Bruce Finley, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

DENVER — Native American leaders convened in Denver on Friday for a ceremony aimed at moving forward the renaming of Mount Evans, an effort that stalled after one tribe’s last-minute objection delayed a federal vote on the change to Mount Blue Sky.

Tribal leaders said they seek a respectful resolution of differences as many still support the switch — which will strip the 14,271-foot peak of a name tied to the Sand Creek Massacre — in spite of the objection by Montana-based leaders of the Northern Cheyenne.

But assigning the words “Blue Sky” to Mount Evans would be “sacrilegious,” Northern Cheyenne tribal administrator William Walksalong told The Denver Post. That’s because a Northern Cheyenne ceremony uses the “blue sky” words and concept, and transferring these to serve as the name of a mountain would betray secrets, he said.

“It would be an abuse of the ceremony,” Walksalong said. “We don’t want to send elements of our ceremony out to the public.”

Instead, Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho leaders advocate renaming the peak — visible throughout metro Denver — Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho.

After a two-year brainstorming run by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Mount Blue Sky emerged as the favored alternative to Mount Evans, which commemorates the state’s territorial Gov. John Evans.


The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board in December unanimously recommended this switch. The other proposed new names board members considered were: Mount Soule, Mount Rosalie, Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, Mount Evans (after Anne Evans, that governor’s daughter) and Mount Sisty.

Nobody’s disputing that the name should be changed as soon as possible, due to Gov. Evans’ role in genocidal killing at the Sand Creek Massacre on the plains of southeastern Colorado. The massacre in 1864, led by U.S. Army Cavalry Col. John Chivington, left 230 dead and decimated the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper both backed Mount Blue Sky.

On Feb. 28, Gov. Jared Polis sent a letter to the federal government’s U.S. Board on Geographic Names urging support for Mount Blue Sky, calling the massacre “the deadliest day in Colorado history” and saying that “without question” Gov. Evans “didn’t just engage in warfare against Native Americans but facilitated the senseless slaughter of non-combatants including large numbers of women, children and the elderly.”


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