CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A new name has been chosen by Clear Creek County officials for an iconic location in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
The name chosen to replace the existing name, Mount Evans, is Mount Blue Sky, submitted by the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. It was approved in a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
“The decision is final,” said Clear Creek County Commissioner Randy Wheelock. “I know we’re issuing communication to the state and the federal government [Tuesday] that we’ve officially endorsed ‘Mount Blue Sky.’ It’s done. So the resolution is simply working out the words that support and give the reasons for why we did it, but the decision is final.”
“It’s one of the things that really unifies us with our unique geography is that we all get a good view of that mountain around Clear Creek County,” said George Marlin, a Clear Creek County Commissioner. “So I don’t think that this community and I don’t think that that mountain deserves this negative connotation associated with this name.”
“The proposal must make its way through the formal review process before being submitted to the Governor for consideration,” a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis’ office said.
The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board and the U.S. Board on Geographic
Names asked Clear Creek County for its input in renaming the mountain and will review their choice.
The advisory board will likely go through a three-meeting process to determine its recommendation. Polis will then decide whether to act on that recommendation and send a letter to the federal board, which will make a final decision, based on all comments, and after having reached out to all indigenous tribes in the country for their opinion.
The history of the name ‘Mount Evans’
Mount Evans itself is named after Colorado Territorial Gov. John Evans, who held office at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre. The 1864 massacre resulted in the deaths of over 230 Native Americans, a majority of whom were women, children and elderly.
“Today was a great day and a positive step forward in finally getting Evans name off of something so grandeur and to have it replaced with a name that represents the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. A people he tried to annihilate and exterminate. Randy Wheelock was the guiding voice who kept the Commissioners on track to vote to support Mt. Blue Sky.”Fred Mosqueda, the Arapaho Coordinator for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes
“In July of 1864, Governor Evans issued a proclamation that made it legal for any white settler, white storekeeper white soldier, white anybody to kill any hostile Indian is they perceived that Indian to be hostile,” Wheelock explained. “It caused them a lot of pain every time they look west and saw Mount Evans and saw that the largest geographic feature overlooking Denver carrying his name.”
Evans was forced to resign from his role after the massacre.
Many believe it’s a beautiful place tarnished by the past.
“I’ll answer your next question for you. Which is, ‘What do you say to those people that say it’s erasing history?’ My answer to that is: we never wrote it to begin with,” Wheelock said, recalling all the outdoor recreational opportunities he took advantage of on Mount Evans in the last 50 years. “In that 50 years, the name Mount Evans never meant anything to me, nor teach me anything about history. It wasn’t until some people came to me and said, ‘Let’s change this name,’ that I learned.”
What’s next for Mount Evans
Now the executive director of the Historical Society of Idaho Springs and Visitor’s Center Tracy Stokes is ready to adapt. She said they’ll work with tourists to adjust to the change.
“It’ll be up to us as we have the thousands of people come through here to just gently explain that the name has changed,” Stokes said.
“Sure, it’s going to be a challenge over time, but I think that the rebranding could be a beautiful smooth process. If we all cooperate together,” Stokes said.
Stokes said more than half the visitors who come in the doors are interested in the peak.
“Over the summer, Mount Evans is the talk of the town,” Stokes said, “once we get a logo and we get a name drop and everything else that’ll come out on mugs and merchandise and everything else.”
As far as the state and federal organizations adopting the name change, Wheelock hopes that will be by the end of the year.