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Clear Creek County Holds First Public Comment On Potential Mt. Evans Name Change

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) -- Clear Creek Board of County Commissioners Tuesday night opened its meeting to public comment about the possibility of changing the name of Mount Evans. People chimed in on the idea in an online meeting.

mount evans
(credit: CBS)

"I am a descendant of Governor Evans," Anne Hayden said. "I have to agree with them that it's time for the name of the mountain to be changed."

Others talked about what they believed was an ugly Evans legacy left when territorial Gov. John Evans was involved in precipitating the Sand Creek Massacre of Native American Cheyenne and Arapaho in 1864.

"They knew what they were doing, and they did it in a very intentional manner, primarily to get Indian people out of Colorado. By whatever means necessary," Rick Williams said.

public hearing
(credit: CBS)

All who spoke said they were in favor, but Liz Tyus, who said she lived in the Mt. Evans area, wondered how much good it would do.

"By changing names and removing statues, I don't think that people can seriously heal from that," Tyus said. "I still think that people are going to call it Mt. Evans."

Among emails sent to the board opposed to the idea were comments from Dorian Billing. "Society should be provided the privilege to learn from the past. If we wipe out our history to placate this 'entitled' generation, we take away the right of future generations to know the truth of mistakes that were made in hope they are not repeated."

Among the first to apply for the change were the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, headquartered in Oklahoma.

"I believe right now is probably the best time for change. I believe that people have open minds," said Gov. Reggie Wassana of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. "Blue Sky has a significant meaning to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe people. I believe on the Arapaho side, sometimes they're known as Blue Sky People. And on the Cheyenne side, we have a ceremony where part of the phase is a blue sky ceremony."

An estimated 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed at Sand Creek. Evans later resigned under pressure for his actions related to the killings.

"When we hear Evans, Governor Evans, Mount Evans, we know that, then our demise was close simply because he had an agenda and a policy to actually exterminate Indian people, same thing as Hitler with genocide of the Jews," Wassana said.

There are other proposals for change. Five so far, but more are possible. Here is the list:

    • Mount Blue Sky (from the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes)
    • Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho (from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe)
    • Mount Soule (from a private party)
    • Mount Rosalie (from a private party)
    • Mount Evans (to be re-designated after a different Evans family member; from a private party)

The state is asking Clear Creek County for its view of the potential of the name change because the mountain is in the county. The input of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes as well as other Native American tribes is also being sought. The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board will take up the possibility of change after Clear Creek weighs in. The governor will also have an opportunity to share views on it. Ultimately it is up to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which would consider name changes after the state has its say.

Also weighing in on the matter are tribes such as the Ute who were on the land in that era.

"The Southern Ute Indian Tribe does support the renaming of sites with histories of colonization and genocide of indigenous people, including Mt. Evans in Clear Creek County," the tribe said in a statement to CBS4. "Ute people are the oldest continuous residents of Colorado with no migration story. Therefore, the renaming of Mt. Evans should coincide with a strong educational campaign to include Ute history and the Mouache and Tabeguache Ute bands which who called this area home."

Wassana hopes for change to be positive and one of honoring, rather than that of maintaining sullied names from the past.

"I hope that something becomes positive out of this, and that's all I think that we ever want is that there be good changes on this earth and not reminders of what the past has done to us in a negative light," Wassana said.

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