A mountain in Clear Creek County is one step closer to a new name after the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board voted unanimously on Thursday for the change.
The current Squaw Mountain may soon become Mesta’hehe Mountain (pronounced mes-ta-hee) in honor of an important translator in times of unrest. Mestaa’ėhehe, or Owl Woman, was an influential member of the Cheyenne tribe in the early 1800s, which bridged the divide between indigenous tribes and new settlers in Colorado before military-ordered massacres and expulsions.
According to Merriam Webster, squaw is an offensive word meaning an indigenous woman of North America.
Reviewing the name change, the mountain was referred to in debate as the “S-Mountain”. Within Colorado alone, there are 36 features, both natural and man-made, that contain the word “squaw,” the naming advisory board meeting packet stated.
Governor Jared Polis established the board, which includes a dozen people from across the political and cultural scene, from state lawmakers to historians.
The mountain was first labeled with its current name on United States Geological Survey maps in 1923. It has been referred to under that name since at least 1874. The meeting packet mentions that the name was “adopted in 1916 by the Colorado Geographical Board, which probably wanted a name with Indian associations.”
The Ute Mountains Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes support a possible new name.
The board will now recommend changes to the police, which will need to give its opinion on the proposal to the US Board of Geographic Names for a final determination. This is the first recommendation made by the Naming Advisory Board.
The word that would be stripped of mountain in Colorado was recently dropped from the name of a famous Lake Tahoe, California-area ski resort that once hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.
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