This weekend in Gardiner Montana, native tribes gathered in Yellowstone National Park to rally for some name changes of the landmarks in the area. The two locations in question are Hayden Valley and Mount Doane.
Gustavus C. Doane was present at the slaughter of 173 Native Americans by the Maria river in 1870, and Ferdinand Hayden was an American explorer who advocated the genocide of their race. In 1871, he was quoted saying, “Unless they are localized and made to enter agriculture and pastoral pursuits they must be exterminated”. Though Hayden never actual killed any natives, Chief Stan Grier noted that, “words are what incite genocide, even recent history tells us that.”
The tribes would like to change the name of Mount Doane to “The First Peoples Mountain”, and Hayden Valley to “The Buffalo People’s Valley” (due to their historic relationship and dependence on the buffalo).
Regarding the request about Mount Doane, Grier says he wants the change “Not only to honor the Piikani victims of the Marias massacre, but to also to remember the other natives who suffered the same barbarity at the hands of Doane.” They feel the current names are inappropriate, and want to honor the way of life those who lived in the area had as a people before they were forced to undergo near genocide.
The tribes have been requesting the changes since 2014, but so far nothing has happened. The U.S. Board of Geographical Names is in charge of the matter, and if they accept the proposal they will likely not reach a verdict for at least six months. Also, there is a likelihood of triggering local protest, which is always formidable in these cases.
However, tribal leaders remind us that they are not going anywhere, and will continue to fight for these kind of issues no matter the outcome. Grier says, “This was our land. This was our traditional people’s lands.”