Colorado Mountain drops derogatory name and is renamed for Native American translator

Weeks after the word “squaw” was officially declared a derogatory term against Native American women, a federal panel approved the renaming of what is now formerly Squaw Mountain in Colorado. It will bear the name of a famous Native American translator from the region in the early 1800s.

The mountain, about 30 miles west of Denver, will be renamed Mestaa’ėhehe (pronounced mess-taw-HAY) Mountain, and honors a translator also known at the time as Owl Woman, who was responsible for mediating between Native Americans and white settlers. around southern Colorado.

The word “squaw” in the Algonquin language once likely referred to a woman, but over time it has become more associated with racist and misogynistic attacks on Native American women.

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior and first Native American cabinet official, officially declared the term derogatory last month and said the government was working to rename monuments and other sites linked to derogatory terms.

Northern Cheyenne Tribal Historic Preservation Office director Teanna Limpy was a leading advocate for the name change, submitting the name proposal which was unanimously approved by the federal panel, according to Colorado Politics.

“A derogatory name intended to diminish the sanctity and power of our women is no more,” Limpy said in a statement. “Mestaa’ėhehe will stand on this mountain for many generations to come, continuing to be an inspirational story for all and perhaps a story that will also inspire others to continue learning about other cultures and languages. indigenous.”

A Federal Geographic Names Panel approved the renaming of a Colorado peak for a Cheyenne woman that facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 19th century. The renaming of Squaw Mountain, located 30 miles west of Denver, comes after U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland officially declared “squaw” a pejorative term in November. Above is a view of the Colorado high country as fall colors take over near Idaho Springs on September 25, 2019.
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via AP File

Thursday’s unanimous vote by the US Geological Survey Board on Geographic Names is part of national efforts to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native Americans and other people of color following the 2020 protests calling for racial justice reform.

Earlier this year, the Squaw Valley ski resort in California changed its name to Palisades Tahoe. The resort is in the Olympic Valley, known as Squaw Valley until it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Tribes in the area had been asking for the resort to change its name for decades.

The renaming of the 11,486-foot (3,501-meter) peak, located in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, is the first of several geographic name changes being considered by a state panel.

Among them is the 14,265-foot (4,348-meter) Mount Evans, named after John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. Evans resigned after an 1864 U.S. cavalry massacre of more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people, mostly women, children, and the elderly, at Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Deb Haaland, Colorado Mountain name change
Last month, US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland officially declared ‘squaw’ a derogatory term, and a federal panel on Thursday approved the renaming of a mountain in Colorado to honor a famous Native American translator. . Above, Haaland delivers remarks during the 2021 Tribal Nations Summit at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on November 15, 2021 in Washington, DC
Alex Wong/Getty Images