Open Letter: Call it “Mount Blue Sky”

Note: These are my planned remarks for tomorrow’s Clear Creek Commissioners’ public comments session regarding the renaming of Colorado’s Mount Evans.

Good morning, commissioners, and thank you for this opportunity.

My name is Marrton Dormish. I’m a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in Denver not far from Interstate-25’s Hampden Avenue overpass, from which the western face of the landmark under consideration today is still clearly visible. When I think of or sketch mountains in idle moments, my first thought and my first jagged line is of this peak and its neighbors. Like many metro-area residents, when I think of “west,” I think of this mountain.

I grew up mostly unaware of the long connection of Indigenous peoples to the Front Range, in part because I was taught to refer to this peak and others by the names of prominent early U.S. explorers or leaders, as if these landmarks had no names or noteworthy histories before the settlement of this area. Since 1895, this mountain has officially borne the last name of Colorado’s second territorial governor, despite his leading role in the permanent displacement from Colorado of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations.

Two other proposed names for the peak in question are Mount Rosalie, after the 19th-century, German-American painter Albert Bierstadt’s wife and Mount Soule. Capt. Silas Soule helped publicize, at the cost of his life, details of the 1864 cavalry massacre of more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho elders, women, children and men at Sand Creek in Eastern Colorado. While I lament the lack of prominent Colorado landmarks named after women, and while I recognize the moral courage of Silas Soule, now is not the time and this is not the landmark around which to re-center the names and stories of white European Americans.

As a Christian minister and a resident since 2004 of nearby Broomfield, Colo., I urge you and your commission and any other necessary governmental entities to officially adopt the proposal of the Mestaa’ehehe Coalition and its supporters. Please rename this peak “Mount Blue Sky.”

Now is the time, in our designation of this mountain, to de-center the Great-(White)-Person and settler-colonial themes of U.S. history, and to center the important voices of our Cheyenne and Arapaho neighbors, in particular.

I understand from my friend Fred Mosqueda, the Sand Creek representative of the Southern Arapaho people, that the Arapaho name for this mountain is translated as “It is misty,” which sounds like something straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. As stunning and memorable as “It is misty” is, Clear Creek and Colorado residents are not being asked to adopt that special Arapaho name. Instead, Mestaa’ehehe Coalition members have chosen a name that echoes important Cheyenne and Arapaho traditions and highlights the obvious beauty enjoyed by metro-area residents and visitors, alike, who look west on sunny days.

Now is the time to expand our historical and cultural horizons by choosing the name “Mount Blue Sky” for this iconic and important Front Range 14er. “Blue Sky” is something we can all share.

Thank you.

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