Most speakers support Mount Evans name change at public hearing

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Clear Creek County, Colo.) Mount Blue Sky is the perfect name for the 14'er known as Mount Evans, several people told the Clear Creek County Commission on Monday.

"Blue Sky is a geographic description," said a woman named Katie during a public hearing on the proposed renaming of the mountain. "It recognizes the significance of a blue Colorado sky. It's not an East Coast or West Coast washed-out blue."

The commission hosted the public hearing to learn what people thought about the name change. It lasted just over an hour. It included testimony from Native Americans and descendants of John Evans, the mountain's namesake.

Evans is the former territorial governor of Colorado believed to be responsible for ordering the massacre of Native Americans at Sand Creek on Nov. 29, 1864. That's why many want to strip his name from the mountain.

But others say the name could stay the same while still erasing the Sand Creek connotation. Some have proposed naming the mountain after Anne Evans, John Evans' youngest daughter, who championed the rights of indigenous people.

Evans’ descendants speak out

"I am a descendant of Governor Evans, but I do not represent the entire Evans family," said Anne Hayden of Evergreen. "We don't agree any more than the tribes agree."

She endorsed Mount Blue Sky or whatever name the tribes approve. She suggested resisting any sense of urgency for renaming the mountain.

Hayden has become friends with indigenous people and "understands how distressing it is to see Evans' name on that mountain." She said the name change would help Native Americans "heal old wounds."

"I was named after Anne Evans, but I cannot designate the mountain be named after her," Hayden said. "Stand back as non-native people and let the tribes come to a consensus. Don't pay any attention to what the non-native people want to see on that mountain."

Little mention of Sand Creek Massacre

The Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes suggested the name Mount Blue Sky. The Northern Cheyenne Tribes proposed Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho.

Private parties suggested Mount Soule, Mount Rosalie, and keeping the name Mount Evans.

Clear Creek County Commissioner Randall Wheelock said the Southern Ute and Northern Arapaho tribes also want to speak on an upcoming agenda about the name change.

Jim Ramey, the Colorado state director for The Wilderness Society, supports changing the name to Mount Blue Sky. He said it's time to replace the name Mount Evans "with a beautiful name that everyone can be proud of."

One unidentified caller, who taught agriculture at Colorado State University, asked students if they knew about the Sand Creek Massacre. None did. She said changing the mountain's name "is about restorative justice – it's about more than just changing the name of a mountain."

A deadly trap

Kellie Brown of Clear Creek County represented the Evergreen Coalition for Racial Justice. Brown said Evans set the stage for the massacre. "He had them come to Sand Creek for sanctuary and ordered them murdered."

Evans was forced to resign and shouldn't be honored, Brown said. "He should not have his name on one of our most beautiful landmarks. As Coloradans, none of us should be proud of that."

Sheena Oliver of the Navajo Nation agreed. She said her people suffered genocide. The mountain is a symbol of "environmental racism," she said.

Black Elk Peak renamed

Paul Silverman of Boulder said he is the descendant of someone responsible for massacring the Lakota. His ancestor also was honored with Harney Peak in South Dakota.

But Silverman and other relatives worked to change the name. Now, he said, Lakota youth come to Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills to reclaim their history. "The energy of oppression has been lifted from that place," Silverman said.

Early in the meeting, Clear Creek County Commission Chairman Sean Wood clarified that when he thanked someone for endorsing a name, it did not mean he was endorsing that option. "The purpose of this meeting is not to agree with anybody," Wood said. "I was just being polite."

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The Clear Creek County Commission meets via Zoom.Clear Creek County Commission

He thanked the callers for being polite, too. "I appreciate everyone's respectful tones even though I know there are differences for sure."

One man called in to warn those making comments. "This is kind of dangerous," he said. "For those who do want to speak, be cautious. This is controversial."

No murder on the mountain

A caller who identified herself only as "Liz" said she lives on the road that leads up to Mount Evans. She does not believe that changing the name will heal old wounds.

While people outside of Clear Creek County seem to support the name change, locals often don't. "I heard about this at Safeway," she said.

"A massacre never took place on the mountain; it's just named after the person who started it," she said.

A woman identified only as Mairi on Zoom said she is a triple-great granddaughter of Evans. The Sand Creek massacre is an awful family legacy, she said. "This is just one step toward reparations," she said.

The Clear Creek County Commission will vote next week to recommend a name.

After that, the proposed name change goes through a two-month state process during which a different name could be suggested. A resolution will head to the governor for final approval if a new name is chosen.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

Denver, CO
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