By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
A prominent peak in Yellowstone National Park will now honor Native American heritage.
On Thursday, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved the change of 10,551-foot Mount Doane to First Peoples’ Mountain.
The federal body responsible for maintaining uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government voted 15-0 for the name change.
In 2019, the Wyoming Board on Geographical Names (WBGN) issued a recommendation with a 6-2 vote that the name be changed to First Peoples’ Mountain. Shelley Messer, chairman of the WBGN, said she was informed by a member of the national board that the state’s board recommendation was taken into consideration.
“It feels good to be appreciated,” Messer said.
Mount Doane, located near Yellowstone Lake and the East Yellowstone Park entrance outside Cody, was named after Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a Cavalry officer in the U.S. Army. He escorted the historic Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition into Yellowstone in 1870, one of the first missions to explore the Park region.
However, earlier that same year, Doane led an attack, in response to the alleged murder of a white fur trader, on a tribe of Blackfeet Native American people in Montana. During what is now known as the Marias Massacre, at least 173 were killed, including many women, elderly tribal members and children suffering from smallpox.
Doane wrote fondly about this attack more than 20 years later and was said to have bragged about it for the rest of his life.
The State board studied the matter for around two years before making its vote.
“We’re pleased,” Messer said. “We put a lot of effort and time into researching that.”
Yellowstone conducted outreach to all 27 associated Tribes over the past several months and in May, the National Park Service gave its approval for the name change. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Council also pushed for the change.
Linda Veress, a spokesperson for Yellowstone, said a similar name change occurred involving Indian Pond, located just north of Yellowstone Lake.
“Park superintendent P.W. Norris named the lake Indian Pond in 1880,” Veress said. “For unknown reasons, another superintendent changed it to an offensive name in the 1920s. A park place-names committee restored the name Indian Pond in 1981.”
Still being considered is a proposal to rename Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley to Buffalo Nations Valley. This change involves Ferdinand Hayden, an explorer and geologist who supported naming the mountain for Doane.
Hayden also allegedly advocated for the genocide and extermination of Native Americans in the 1871 Geological Survey, but it unclear how involved he was in the writing of this publication. He is also credited with convincing Congress to make Yellowstone a national park.
There is also a task force working under U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s 2021 order to rename all American landmarks containing the word “squaw.” It will present results this fall.