By Corinne Westeman, Clear Creek Courant
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has approved the petition to rename a Clear Creek County peak Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain.
This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.
The board approved changing the name from Squaw Mountain, a name government bodies have recognized as a slur, during a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Teanna Limpy, director of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Historic Preservation Office, said she appreciated the overwhelming support for the name change. She celebrated the removal of the mountain’s former derogatory name, which she said diminished the power and sacredness of indigenous women.
“This goes to show that there is nothing we cannot achieve if we think with our own hearts and always remember who we are doing this for,” Limpy wrote in a press release from the Mestaa’ehehe Coalition.
The mountain, which is along Colorado 103 near Echo Mountain ski area, has been renamed for Owl Woman, an influential Cheyenne translator. She helped maintain peaceful relations between local tribes and new settlers until she died in 1847.
Owl Woman was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985.
Limpy was overjoyed that the mountain’s new namesake is such a powerful and strong Cheyenne woman, whose path and story is an inspiration for all. She also hoped the new name would prompt people to learn about indigenous cultures and languages.
“Mestaa’ehehe will be standing tall on that mountain for many generations to come,” she continued. “ … We are excited this marks the start of a new horizon for all.”
Monte Williams, supervisor of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, thanked the local stakeholders and tribal governments for their work.
The U.S. Forest Service co-filed the renaming petition with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and Williams said he’s thankful the mountain’s new name honors “an influential indigenous woman who played such an important role in Colorado history.”
He added that the U.S. Forest Service will be renaming the mountain’s administrative sites accordingly to honor her, and will update its signage as quickly as possible. Forest Service spokeswoman Reid Armstrong said it may take several months to rename the the fire tower and telecommunications equipment on the peak.
Clear Creek County also has several roads that bear the mountain’s former name, and several locals have voiced their support for changing the roads’ names as well.
County officials previously explained that the roads bearing the peak’s previous name wouldn’t automatically change if the mountain’s did.
County Commissioner Randy Wheelock, who’s also a member of the Mestaa’ehehe Coalition, said now that the peak’s name has been changed, the county is likely to discuss changing road names.
“I think a dialogue between local stakeholders and the indigenous community will help inform those decisions,” Wheelock said of the renaming the roads.
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