Posted on September 22, 2021

Colorado Panel Recommends Tribal Name Change for Mountain

Associated Press, September 17, 2021

A Colorado state panel has recommended that a mountain peak west of Denver be renamed in honor of a Native American woman who acted as a translator for tribes and white settlers in the 19th century.

Thursday’s recommendation comes amid national efforts to address a history of colonialism and oppression against Native Americans and other people of color after last summer’s protests calling for racial justice reform. It is the first of several name changes being considered by the state panel.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board recommended changing the name of Squaw Mountain, located in Clear Creek County about 30 miles (48 kilometers) miles west of Denver, to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain, which is pronounced “mess-taw-hay.”

The name honors an influential Cheyenne translator known as Owl Woman, who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 1800s {snip}

The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may once have simply meant “woman.” But over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women, according to experts.


Northern Cheyenne Tribal members filed the application to change the Colorado mountain’s name in October with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names, which officially decides federal land name changes.