“Mount McKinley, which officially became Denali this week, isn’t the only mountain Native Americans have been lobbying to rename. At stake are the names of some of America’s most iconic natural sites. Such naming decisions are usually made by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which comprises experts appointed by six cabinet-level departments and other federal agencies and which evaluates proposals for new or amended names.” B. Howard, National Geographic
Excerpt: Other Mountains Native Americans Would Like to Rename-By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic
“The board receives hundreds of requests each year to change the names of geographical features all over the country. In each case, it solicits input from the local community, local government, the state, and relevant land managers, such as the parks or forestry service…The mission of the board isn’t to restore historic names, says executive secretary Lou Yost. It’s to go along with current use and reflect local use and preference. Alaskans had been asking the board to rename Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in the United States, since 1975…Some Native Americans have asked that the indigenous names of these peaks also be officially restored”
The board is considering a proposal from Native American spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse to rename Devil’s Tower—a monolithic rock that rises 1,267 feet (386 meters) above its surroundings in northeast Wyoming—to the traditional Sioux and Cheyenne name, Bear Lodge.
Designated as the country’s first national monument in 1906, Devils Tower was a white man’s mistranslation of the words Bad God’s Tower, Looking Horse, a Sioux, argued in his proposal. His proposal says the name is offensive because it equates cultural and faith traditions practiced at this site to ‘devil worship,’ in essence equating indigenous people to ‘devils.
A group of Lakota in South Dakota have asked the board to rename the state’s Harney Peak, the highest point in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. The petitioners say the current name for the craggy feature in western South Dakota is offensive because Army General William S. Harney’s men massacred Native women and children during a battle in 1855.
The Lakota have asked for an official reinstatement of their name for the 7,242-foot (2,207-meter) Black Hills feature: Hinhan Kaga, often translated as mountain of the sacred owl.
Native Americans have filed several requests over the years to rename the highest point in Washington State. The name Mt. Rainier was bestowed by explorer George Vancouver in the 1790s to honor a fellow member of the British Royal Navy (one who fought against the U.S. in the Revolution). Alternative names suggested include Tahoma or Tacoma, which mean snowy mountain peak, or Ti’Swaq, which means “sky wiper.
“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being…And I saw that it was holy.” ~Black Elk~ Oglala Lakota (Sioux) (1863-1950)