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Tribes Ask For Name Changes At Yellowstone, Local Government Gives Thumbs Down

Credit Public Domain / Max Pixel

Twenty-eight great plains tribes are demanding two different sites in Yellowstone National Park be renamed. The request says Hayden Valley and Mount Doane are offensive because they memorialize a racist and a murderer. But with local government officials opposing the change, it seems unlikely to happen.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association filed the request with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names last year. They asked that the two names be changed to ‘Buffalo Nations Valley’ and ‘First Peoples Mountain.’

But the Park County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted against recommending the change. Jake Fulkerson is the Vice Chairman of the board.

"If you go around digging up dirt on people and changing names everywhere. Once this horse leaves the barn, where does it end?" said Fulkerson.

Hayden Valley is named after the geologist who played a key role in establishing Yellowstone. He also called for the extermination of Native Americans who didn’t assimilate to Western culture. Mount Doane is named after a U.S. Army Lieutenant who took part in the massacre of an estimated 200 Native Americans in Montana in 1870.   

"This has nothing to do with the Native Americans. I mean there was one article that we saw that said, ‘Commissioners Against the Indians,’ or something, and that’s garbage," said Fulkerson. "That’s not what’s going on here."

Fulkerson said the names have been used for decades, and locals have become used to them.

The National Park Service as well as the state board on geographic names will also contribute recommendations before a final decision is made this summer.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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