A mountain in Yellowstone National Park is being renamed after complaints about its namesake’s ties to violence against Native Americans in the early American West.
The National Park Service announced Mount Doane will now be known as First Peoples Mountain. The decision was unanimously supported by the 15 members of the United States Board of Geographic Names.
The peak, which has an elevation of 10,551, is east of Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming. It was named for Gustav Doane, an Illinois native and explorer who served as a member of the Second U.S. Cavalry for 24 years. Doane led the Langford-Washburn expedition in 1870, which was the first excursion into what is now Yellowstone National Park.
Rising to the rank of a captain in 1884, Doane was stationed across America’s western frontier in posts in Montana, California, and Arizona. He took part in a number of conflicts between U.S. forces and Native American tribes including the Sioux War of 1876, the Nez Pearce War of 1877 and the Apache campaign of 1886, per Fox News.
In its statement regarding the mountain’s name change, the N.P.S. said that “research has shown” Doane led a retaliatory attack against a group of Piegan Blackfeet who had murdered a White fur trader in 1870.
“During what is now known as the Marias Massacre, at least 173 American Indians were killed, including many women, elderly Tribal members and children suffering from smallpox. Doane wrote fondly about this attack and bragged about it for the rest of his life,” the agency said.
“Based on recommendations from the Rocky Mountain Tribal Council, subsequent votes within the Wyoming Board of Geographic names, and with support of the National Park Service, the name was forwarded to the BGN for a vote in June 2022,” the N.P.S. explained. “The name change will be reflected in The Domestic Names Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) in the coming days.”
None of the 27 associated tribes Yellowstone reached out to in the last several months expressed concerns or opposed the change.
“Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Board on Geographic Names have previously nixed other derogatory terms,” reports The Hill. “In the 1960s and 70s, derogatory terms related to Black and Japanese people were eliminated.”
“It is a victory, yes,” the Rocky Mountain Tribal Council’s executive director William Snell told NPR. “Is history being rewritten and retold truthfully? I hope so.”
According to The Daily Mail, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association began campaigning for the name change in 2018.
The announcement was criticized by some who say NPS “failed to acknowledge the achievements that Lieutenant Doane … made during the expedition that they feature prominently elsewhere on the website.”
“As with many historical figures, when viewed through a modern perspective offenses are exponentially worse than they would have been perceived at the time,” wrote Kevin Haggerty for BizPacReview.
“Yellowstone may consider changes to other derogatory or inappropriate names in the future,” the N.P.S. concluded.
Yellowstone is one of 423 national parks in America.