In this 2016 file photo, visitors pass the sign on the summit of Mount Evans. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

When the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board on Thursday begins to consider whether to rename Mount Evans, the work will occur without Patricia Limerick, who has special expertise in the fraught history of John Evans, the territorial governor blamed for the Sand Creek Massacre.

And the composition of the 15-member board could change even more in December, before work on renaming the fourteener visible from Denver is complete. 

The terms of six members expired in August. They all will continue to serve on the board until they are reappointed or replaced by Gov. Jared Polis, which Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris Arend said likely will happen next month.

Two of those members will depart the board in January. Republican state Rep. Perry Will of New Castle, who serves on the board as a representative from the legislature, lost his reelection bid last week. Boulder City Council Member Junie Joseph, a Democrat who serves on the board as a representative of a local government, was elected to the state House. 

Gov. Jared Polis signs in 2021 two executive orders rescinding proclamations, issued in 1864 by Territorial Governor John Evans, that led to the Sand Creek Massacre. Also pictured, from left to right: Jameson Blackbear, Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe; Jeanvieve Jerome of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe and Lakota; Speaker of the House Alec Garnett, D-Denver; Reggie Wassana, Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe; and Jordan Dresser, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. (Thy Vo, The Colorado Sun)

It is highly likely Polis will reappoint Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs Executive Director Kathryn Redhorse, who Arend says is “critical” to the board’s work. The other members were appointed from the state legislature and local governments. 

As of Wednesday, Limerick’s seat was unfilled. She was appointed to the board by virtue of her work as director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado and lost the seat when she was dismissed in September

The governor is responsible for appointing members to the board, which was created in 2020 to aid the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in their work “evaluating all proposals concerning name changes, new names, and name controversies of geographic features and certain public places in the State of Colorado.”

The Department of Natural Resources, under which the naming board falls, is working with Polis’ boards and commissions staff to fill the vacancies, Arend said. 

The governor’s office referred requests for comment to Arend.

The view from close to the summit of Mount Evans in Colorado. Evans was originally named Mount Rosalie but was changed to Evans in 1895 for John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado who resigned for his part in the Sand Creek Massacre. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider several proposals to rename Mount Evans, including Mount Soule, Mount Rosalie, Mount Blue Sky, Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho and Mount Sisty. A sixth proposal would retain the Evans name but redefine it to honor the former governor’s philanthropist daughter Anne Evans

Arend does not expect the board to make a decision Thursday on the renaming of Mount Evans. He said the panel likely will use the entirety of the meeting to review proposals and then hear public comments on the matter at the next meeting. 

Polis established the board in 2020 and the panel made its first recommendation a year ago to rename a peak in Clear Creek County to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain in honor of an influential Cheyenne translator known as Owl Woman. Its other work has included confirming the removal of a slur used against Native American women from mountains, creeks, canyons and other geographic features.  

Mount Evans was renamed in 1895 to honor John Evans, the governor of Colorado territory from 1862 to 1865. He was was forced to resign because of his leadership role in the Nov. 29, 1864, Sand Creek Massacre, which resulted in the murders of more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women, children and older adults. 

The board can consist of up to 15 governor-appointed representatives, as outlined by the executive order that created the board. Seats are designated to representatives from History Colorado, the General Assembly, local governments, the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, the Center of the American West, and more. 

Limerick, who still serves as a history professor at the University of Colorado, has a long record of studying and writing about the Western American history of conquest. In 1987, she authored a report about the renaming of a hall on the Boulder campus named after David Nichols, a U.S. Army captain and a commander of troops at the Sand Creek Massacre.

“The state board of geographic naming, that is a wondrous group of people,” Limerick said. “They’ll be fine without me, but I hope they will miss me a little and I know I will miss them a lot.”

Delaney Nelson

Delaney Nelson is The Colorado Sun's 2022 Medill School of Journalism Fellow.