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Thomas Peipert
Associated Press

DENVER — A Colorado state panel recommended that Mount Evans, a prominent peak near Denver, be renamed Mount Blue Sky at the request of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board voted unanimously for the change. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will weigh in on the recommendation before a final decision by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Thursday’s vote comes as part of national efforts to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native people and other people of color after protests in 2020 called for racial justice reform.

The proposed name change recognizes the Arapaho were known as the Blue Sky People, while the Cheyenne hold an annual renewal-of-life ceremony called Blue Sky.

The 14,264-foot peak southwest of Denver is named after John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor. Evans resigned after an 1864 U.S. cavalry massacre of more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people — most of them women, children and the elderly — at Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado.

Fred Mosqueda, a citizen of the Southern Arapaho tribe and a Sand Creek descendant, said during Thursday night's meeting that when he first realized Mount Blue Sky was a possible alternative, it "hit me like a bolt of lightning. It was the perfect name.”

“I was asked once, ‘Why are you so mean to the name Evans?'” he recalled. “And I told them, ’Give me one reason to be nice or to say something good. Show me one thing that Evans has done that I as Arapaho can celebrate.' And they could not."

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An entrance sign is shown at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Eads, Colo., on Dec. 27, 2019. This quiet piece of land tucked away in rural southeastern Colorado seeks to honor the 230 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members who were slaughtered by the U.S. Army in 1864. It was one of worst mass murders in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

Mosqueda, who has been actively involved in Mount Evans' renaming process, said Evans was in the perfect position as territorial governor to give the tribes a reservation, but "instead he went the genocide route.”

Polis, a Democrat, revived the state’s 15-member geographic naming panel in July 2020 to make recommendations for his review before they are forwarded to the federal group.

(Related: Deb Haaland: US expanding Native massacre site)

Last year, the federal panel approved renaming another Colorado peak after a Cheyenne woman who facilitated relations between White settlers and tribes in the early 19th century.

Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain honors and bears the name of an influential translator, also known as Owl Woman, who mediated between Native people and White traders and soldiers in what is now southern Colorado.

The mountain is 30 miles west of Denver. Its renaming came after U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, formally declared the "S-word" a derogatory term and announced steps to remove it from federal government use and rename other derogatory place names.

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