DENVER (KDVR) — The U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially renamed Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky during the Council of Geographic Names Authorities conference Friday afternoon.
The name change was years in the making and gained traction in 2020 as part of a widespread movement to address past atrocities.
During the meeting, officials discussed six options to be the new name of the iconic 14er. After the motion to approve the name change, several officials seconded the change.
“I think there’s an overwhelming agreement that the name has to be changed,” Chris Hammond, a member of the Domestic Names Committee, said.
“I do hope that whatever name we pick does start the healing process,” Andrew Flora added.
When called for a vote, one person opposed and there were three abstentions, but it was ultimately voted by the majority of 15 to be renamed Mount Blue Sky.
History of the name ‘Mount Evans’
Mount Evans was named after Colorado Territorial Gov. John Evans in 1895. In June 1864, Evans ordered all “friendly Indians of the plains” to relocate to “places of safety.” The next month, Evans issued a proclamation allowing Coloradans to “kill and destroy” any hostile Indian.
I, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, do issue this my proclamation, authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains…to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians.1864 Proclamation by Gov. Evans
In November 1864, 600 troops attacked Cheyenne and Arapaho camps in a valley by the Big Sandy Creek, killing more than 200 Native Americans, mostly women, elderly and children, according to the National Park Service. It became known as the Sand Creek Massacre, after which Evans was forced to resign from his role.
Why change to Mount Blue Sky
“It’s time to rename Mount Evans. There is no place to honor those who facilitated atrocities against Native Americans on America’s public lands,” The official proposal document states.
Evans’ great-grandson Tom Hayden as well as his wife and sister supported changing the name, according to the proposal.
The schedule for the meeting on Friday listed several other name options, including Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, Mount Rosaly, Mount Sisty and Mount Soule. It also included an option to keep the name Mount Evans, but to change the commemoration to honor Evans’ daughter.
The name “Mount Blue Sky” was proposed in recognition of both tribes. The Arapaho were known as the Blue Sky People, and the Cheyenne have an annual renewal-of-life ceremony called Blue Sky, according to the proposal.
A years-long effort
In 2017, Denver resident Mark Olmstead started a petition on Change.org to rename Mount Evans, which had 11 supporters. The next year, the Denver American Indian Commission declared its support of the idea, according to the proposal document.
In June 2020, Olmstead started another petition to change the name with input from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, and it quickly garnered thousands of signatures.
The next month, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order to create the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board amid a widespread movement to address past atrocities.
On Sept. 15, 2023, the famous 14er was officially renamed to Mount Blue Sky.