Mount Evans

The summit at Mount Evans in Colorado.

Update: Laurel Hayden, great-great-great granddaughter of John Evans, also weighs in on the name change.

Three more proposals, including a third for Mount Evans, have been submitted to the US Board of Geographic Names and now have joined the list in front of the Colorado Geographic Naming Board.

The Colorado group met Wednesday night but did not take action on any of the proposals for renaming places around the state. 

There are now 18 proposals for name changes for mountains, creeks, draws, lakes and gulches in Colorado. 

Three have been submitted to rename Mount Evans in Clear Creek County. The first proposal, announced in July, 2018, was submitted by elementary school teacher Kate Tynan-Ridgeway of Denver, to rename it Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho.

In her proposal, Tynan-Ridgeway said the name should be changed because it is named after Second Territorial Gov. John Evans, who took "part in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre and its subsequent cover up." Evans resigned as governor at the request of President Andrew Johnson after two investigations by Congress and a military committee all found evidence of the Colorado government's responsibility for the massacre.

The submission notes that the Evans family is in favor of the renaming. According to the submission, Tom Hayden, then a Clear Creek County commissioner and a great-great grandson of Evans, participated in a 2015 panel at the University of Denver — which Evans founded — with descendants of the Sand Creek survivors.

In that May 2015 panel, Hayden said, according to the submission, "I didn’t think I could ever be at peace with knowing my great-great grandfather was so involved [with the Sand Creek Massacre]. He set the stage. He choreographed it. He did everything he could but pull the trigger and he might as well have done that which is why I’m so grateful for the [2014 University of Denver] report" that also found Evans was culpable in the massacre. A 2014 report by Northwestern University, which was founded by Evans, disagreed, stating that the only evidence that Evans was involved was circumstantial and that the "extant evidence suggests that he did not consider the Indians at Sand Creek to be a threat and that he would have opposed the attack that took place."

In an effort to begin a healing process, the submission said, Hayden stated that his family would approve both the renaming of Mount Evans as well as Evans Avenue in Denver. “There are thousands of people within half a mile of here right now outside these doors that don’t know about Sand Creek," Hayden said, according to the submission. "If you’re going to rename a mountain or if you’re going to rename a concrete street, these are just material things. But if it’s going to educate and bring awareness, and some good can come out of it, I’ll get behind that. I’ll help.” But Hayden died unexpectedly in February 2016. 

Among the memorials suggested in his obituary: the Remember Sand Creek Memorial Fundraiser (which is no longer active).

His daughter, Laurel Hayden, told Colorado Politics this week that her parents "did a lot of work to expose me to the truth of our family member and the reality of what a young age. We attended the first Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run [an annual event] when I was eight years old and am so grateful to them for opening my eyes at a young age. Similar to my dad’s belief, I support the renaming of the mountain if it is what tribal members want and if the effort is led by them so that their voices are centralized in the decision. I can’t speak for my entire family but I know there are others who do support the name change."

Name change proposals for Mount Evans had been opposed in the past by the Clear Creek County Commissioners. But Commissioner George Marlin told Colorado Politics Thursday that they decided to withdraw their objection a couple of weeks ago. "We want to evaluate this on neutral grounds," Marlin said. "The last time, our process did not include the proponents" and was dealt with pretty quickly. "We want to be more thoughtful this time" and invite the proponents to weigh in, a meeting that has not yet taken place.

Mount Evans has two other proposals for renaming: Mount Soule, after Silas Soule, the commander of the 1st Colorado Cavalry that murdered the Sand Creek Cheyenne and Arapaho. Soule testified against Col. John Chivington, who led the massacre, and was murdered shortly thereafter. The proposal, announced in April, 2019, was submitted by Karen Naiman of Denver.

The third name is Mount Rosalie, after Rosalie Osborne Ludlow Bierstadt. The mountain had several names: Mount Rosa, Mount Rosalia and Mount Rosalie, which was the name of an 1863 painting by noted Colorado landscape artist Albert Bierstadt. The name was in honor of Rosalie Ludlow, who later married Bierstadt.  The name was changed to Mount Evans in 1895, based on a resolution adopted by the Colorado General Assembly and at the behest of the Denver Fortnightly Club, according to the proposal submitted by Jeri Norgren of Englewood.

The other submissions from the Oct. 5 announcement:

To change Gore Range in Eagle, Summit, Grand, Jackson and Routt counties to Nuchu Range. Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier of Silverthorne submitted the propposal on behalf of the county commissioners. The board adopted a resolution that stated “the Ute Tribal leadership including the Northern Ute, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes have agreed on an appropriate and meaningful name of Nuchu Range as the best replacement name” and that “Nuchu Range means the Ute's Range in the Ute language, and the name [was] used historically.” Nuchu is also spelled Nuche in some sources, the resolution said.

The range was named after Sir. George Gore, an Irish baron who led a hunting expedition in 1854-1857 that killed thousands of buffalo, elk, deer and bears for sport. "The extravagant and expensive trip was unfavorably viewed in its time by Indigenous peoples and white mountain men as a destructive slaughter of wildlife. Local and national objections to the excesses of Gore’s hunting have been well documented since the 1800s," the proposal stated.

The third new proposal was submitted by Robert Romaniak of Castle Rock, to rename Devil's Head mountain in the Pike National Forest to Thunder Mountain. Romaniak wrote that because “we are re-naming features to remove notorious individuals and offensive slang, why not remove the name of a creature behind all the evil in this world. I am open for any creative re-name suggestions out there. . . Would be nice to remove the name Devil from the name.” He did not say why he chose Thunder Mountain as a replacement name.

Devil's Head was originally known as Platte Mountain, according to the federal board's records. It was formally renamed Devil's Head in 1923, although that name had been in use since at least 1891. The summit also has another name, "Sleeping Indian." Romaniak said the summit "could be called sleeping Indian but in today’s age, that would not fly.”

The Colorado board will meet again before year's end, and could at that time begin setting up a process for accepting recommendations as well as reviewing the list of proposals already submitted. 

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