Gov. Polis announces Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board

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DENVER (KDVR) – A Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board was created on Thursday when an executive order was signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

“The Board’s mission shall be to evaluate proposals and applications concerning name changes, new names, and name controversies of geographic features and certain public places in the State and make recommendations in a timely manner to the Governor,” the order states.

“This new board will play a critical role in the ongoing celebration of our Colorado history through place names and ensure that we have inclusivity and transparency around the naming process,” said Polis.

The Board will make official recommendations to the Governor and the United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN), which has final approval authority for place naming for federal maps and products.

The Board can have up to 15 members and may include:

  • The Executive Director of History Colorado or his or her designee
  • Three representatives from the Colorado General Assembly, two of which must represent each of the major political parties
  • Two representatives of local governments
  • One representative from the Colorado Commission for Indian Affairs
  • One representative from the Center of the American West
  • One representative from the Colorado Geological Survey
  • One representative from the tourism and outdoor recreation industry
  • Two representatives who have a background in race or ethnic studies or who are from an institution of cultural learning that focuses on traditionally underrepresented or displaced communities
  • The Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources or his or her designee
  • The Executive Director of the Department of Local Affairs or his or her designee
  • The Director of the Colorado Tourism Office or his or her designee

Initial appointments to the Board shall be for two-year or four-year terms, and thereafter members will serve four-year terms.

It’s unclear which landmarks the state will review first, but petitions have previously circulated to rename Mt. Evans, Redskin Mountain and Squaw Mountain. 

The effort to rename Mt. Evans has been underway for years, but has picked up momentum in recent weeks. 

A Change.org petition to rename the iconic peak has gathered more than 2,000 signatures in the past week. 

“I think given the nature of this country right now, it’s actually taking off, and people are much more in tune with these types of issues,” says Mark Olmstead, who started the petition.

Lyla June, who has Dene and Cheyenne lineage, argues the Board should have more Indigenous peoples, considering the majority of Colorado’s controversial names involve Native American suffering. 

“If you have any kind of naming board, it’s the least you could do to have the majority of those board members be indigenous peoples who are of this land,” she says. “At least half the members should be indigenous peoples.” 

Despite that, she says the Board is a step in the right direction. 

“I think slowly America is having the courage to lift off the veil, layer by layer, and say, ‘Wow, we are still a profoundly racist and unjust nation state,'” she says. “We are making things right again.”

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