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It's official: Mount Evans has a new name. Colorado, say hello to Mount Blue Sky

U.S. Board of Geographic Names made its final determination Friday on what to rename mountain with controversial history behind it
Mount Evans_Summit Lake_SButzer
Posted at 5:52 PM, Sep 15, 2023

DENVER — Mount Evans, named after the former territorial governor who authorized the indiscriminate murder of Native Americans more than 150 years ago, has a new name.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) voted Friday to rename Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky, prioritizing the mountain's renaming to the top of their considerations and ending a process that's been more than a year and-a-half in the making.

In all, 15 members of the board were in favor of the change. One opposed. Three abstained.

Its new name honors both the Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples. The former are known as the "Blue Sky people," and the latter have a ceremony each year called "Blue Sky."

"I would like to thank the Board for the renaming of Mt. Evans to Mt. Blue Sky," said Caroyln Washee-Freeland, an Arapaho descendant of the Sand Creek massacre who attended the board's meeting virtually on Friday. "I appreciate all of the hard work of all involved."

The following names were also considered before the board made its final determination Friday afternoon:

  • Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, which would have honored the Northern Cheyenne Tribe
  • Mount Evans, after the daughter of John Evans, Anne. She had an active hand in the founding of some of Denver’s most lasting cultural institutions, according to History Colorado
  • Mount Rosalie, a suggestion from a private party
  • Mount Sisty, after Wilson Edward Sisty, who founded the Colorado Department of Wildlife and Fish
  • Mount Soule, a suggestion from a private party
Real Talk Ep. 8: Renaming Mt. Evans

The mountain was named after former territorial Gov. John Evans (1862-1865), who authorized the murder of Native Americans in Colorado and was responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864, which left hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children dead, according to the Sand Creek Massacre Foundation.

The Clear Creek County Board of County Commissioners voted to rename Mount Evans in March 2022 to honor the Indigenous and Native American peoples of Colorado. The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board (CGNAB) then began meeting to discuss the name change.

In November 2022, the advisory board voted unanimously to recommend the renaming of Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky. Earlier this year, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis formally recommended the same name change, pushing the final decision to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

The renaming process was put on pause to discuss the Northern Cheyenne Tribes' concerns with naming the peak Mountain Blue Sky. Northern Cheyenne tribal administrator William Walksalong told The Denver Post in March that assigning the words “Blue Sky” to Mount Evans would be “sacrilegious,” as the words "Blue Sky" are used in Northern Cheyenne ceremony. He told The Denver Post that transferring the words to serve as the name of a mountain would betray secrets. That tribe had advocated for the name Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho.

Union Reservoir in Longmont, which was originally called Calkins Lake, will keep its original name after all members of the voted to reaffirm its original title. It will appear as such in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) entry from now, according to a spokesperson.