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28 Colorado landmarks officially have new names, thanks to the Interior Department

A Colorado state panel recommended on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, that a peak west of Denver, Squaw Mountain, be renamed to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain after a Cheyenne woman who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 19th century.
Rob Lee
CC BY-ND 2.0
A peak west of Denver was renamed Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain after a Cheyenne woman who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 19th century. It is one of 28 official place name changes in Colorado announced by the Interior Department.

More than two dozen geographic locations in Colorado officially have new names, along with almost 650 sites across the country.

The list of name changes was announced Thursday almost a year after Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland first ordered the Board on Geographic Names to remove derogatory and offensive terms from landmarks.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming,” said Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary and a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. “That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long.”

All 28 landmarks in Colorado with new names previously included a racist term referring to Native American women, identified by the Interior Department as the word “sq___.” Manuel Heart is chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, one of two tribal nations within the modern borders of Colorado.

“We’ve had this name for a long time that really doesn’t make us feel comfortable as Native Americans,” said Heart. “This is something that was named in a way, just like the African Americans had a name: the N-word.”

One location about 30 miles west of Denver that previously included the term is now called Mestaa’ėhehe Pass. The new name honors Owl Woman, who was an important translator and mediator between Native Americans and white settlers in the early 1800s.

“If we can treat each other with respect, then we understand each other a lot better,” said Peter Ortego, general counsel for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. “I think that this is a matter of paying respect to the tribes.”

The renamed landmarks are scattered across 17 Colorado counties, including several on ancestral tribal land. They include streams, lakes, valleys and peaks among other geographical places, and their names vary from Indigenous names to simple English ones like Evening Star Mountain in Teller County.

The complete list of new names and a map of the locations is available on the U.S. Geological survey website.

Here is the list of the 28 places renamed in Colorado and the county each is located.

Place NameCounty
Snow CreekArchuleta
Pargin CreekArchuleta
Eightmile CanyonArchuleta
West Pawnee Trail CanyonBaca
East Pawnee Trail CanyonBaca
Tabeguache CreekChaffee
Mestaa’ėhehe PassClear Creek
Bug CanyonDolores
Sego PointDolores
Colorow CreekEagle
Soapy CreekFremont
Red GulchGunnison
Grizzly CreekHinsdale
Grizzly LakeHinsdale
Little Spruce CreekHinsdale
Grizzly PassHinsdale
Artists FingersMesa
Kaan PaachihpiMontezuma
Hairpin HillMontrose
Cimarron CreekMontrose
Kaavapayawiyagat GulchOuray
Petite TetonsRoutt
Porcupine CreekSaguache
Nuchu CreekSummit
Evening Star MountainTeller
Maize GulchTeller
Earthlodge RockWeld
Pawnee HillYuma

Here is a map of the renamed places.

Originally from Southern California, Lucas spent the last decade living in New York City, which is where he started his journalism career. He's been an NPR junkie for as long as he can remember, but really fell in love with reporting radio news at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he received his master's degree. He's reported on a variety of issues, including covering healthcare at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
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