Squaw mountain is shown framed in evergreens on July 27, 1927. At the time The Denver Post was pushing to rename the mountain for Col. Charles A. Lindbergh. The nearby Squaw Pass ski area was renamed Echo Mountain Snowboard and Ski Park in 2005, and now the mountain itself is getting a new name: Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain. (Denver Post file)
Colorado mountain renamed to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain, replacing a slur
Pronounced mess-ta-HAY, Mestaa’ėhehe was an important translator in the early 1800s
By JAKE SHAPIRO | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: September 17, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. | UPDATED: September 17, 2021 at 2:50 p.m
A mountain in Clear Creek County is one step closer to a new name after the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board voted Thursday unanimously for a change.
The current Squaw Mountain could soon become Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain (pronounced mess-ta-HAY) in honor of an important translator during a time of turbulence. Mestaa’ėhehe, or Owl Woman, was an influential member of the Cheyenne tribe in the early 1800s, who bridged the divide between indigenous tribes and new settlers in Colorado before military-ordered massacres and removals.
According to Merriam Webster, Squaw is an offensive term meaning an Indigenous woman of North America.
While reviewing the name change, the mountain was referred to in debate as “S-Mountain.” The naming advisory board’s meeting packet says, within Colorado alone, there are 36 features, both natural and man-made, that contain the word “squaw.”
Governor Jared Polis established the board, which comprises a dozen people from across the political and cultural landscapes, ranging 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 Geographic Board, which presumably desired a name with Indian associations.”
The Ute Mountain Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes back the potential new name.
The board will now recommend the change to Polis, who will need to pass on his opinion on the proposal to the US Board of Geographic Names for a final determination. It is the first recommendation the naming advisory board has made.
The word that would be stripped from the mountain in Colorado was recently removed from the name of a famous Lake Tahoe, Calif.-area ski resort that once hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.
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