CASPER — A peak at Yellowstone National Park that had been named after an Army lieutenant who led a massacre of Native Americans will now be known as First Peoples Mountain, the National Park Service announced Thursday.
The change follows an unanimous vote by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
The 10,551-foot peak in the southeastern portion of the park had been known as Mount Doane. It was named after Gustavus Doane, who in 1870 led an attack on a band of Piegan Blackfeet, allegedly in response to the murder of a white fur trader.
“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,” the park service wrote in its announcement on the name change. “Doane wrote fondly about this attack and bragged about it for the rest of his life.”
In a 2017 interview with the Billings Gazette, Bozeman author and historian Paul Wylie, who wrote a book on the attack, called Doane’s involvement “ghastly, truly ghastly.”
Doane showed no remorse, even decades later. The same year as the massacre, he served as a key member of an expedition in Wyoming that would become part of the park two years later. Ahead of the change, the park service contacted all 27 Native American tribes with a historic connection to the Yellowstone area. It received back no concerns or opposition to the change, the park service said.
Discussion of removing the name dates back years. In 2017, Blackfoot Confederacy and the Sioux Nation representatives delivered a petition to Yellowstone
officials that formally requested the name change, the Gazette reported at the time. Yellowstone may consider changes to other derogatory or inappropriate names in the future, the park service said. Federal place names that include the derogatory word “squaw,” historically as an ethnic and sexist slur referring to Indigenous women, are set to change following an order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in November.
More than 650 places in the country, 43 of them in Wyoming, currently bear that name.
The department is working with local tribes to consult on the proposed alternatives. Haaland’s order also formed a naming task force that includes representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and national parks.
According to a list released earlier this year, the majority of the suggested names come from nearby landmarks and geographical features.
For example, a proposal would rename “Squaw Creek” in the Bridger-Teton National Forest for the neighboring Munger Mountain, Gros Ventre Range or the South Park flat.