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Colorado board votes to change name of 14er

The 14,265 foot mountain’s current name honors the disgraced former Gov. John Evans
The view from close to the summit of Mount Evans in Colorado. Evans was originally named Mount Rosalie, but was changed Evans in 1895 for John Evans, the governor of Colorado, and could be changed again to Mount Blue Sky. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The state’s Geographic Naming Advisory Board on Thursday voted unanimously to strip the name of disgraced territorial governor John Evans from a Clear Creek County fourteener and recommended Mount Blue Sky as the new name, honoring Cheyenne and Arapaho people whose ancestors were killed in the Sand Creek Massacre.

The unexpected vote by the board – which often takes months to evaluate proposals to change offensive or controversial names of geographic features and public places – came after Native American tribe members and dozens of other Coloradans participated in the online meeting and advocated for swiftly removing Evans’ name from the peak.

Evans was governor of Colorado territory from 1862 to 1865. He was forced to resign for his leadership role in the Nov. 29, 1864, Sand Creek Massacre, which resulted in the murders of more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women, children and older adults.

Six name change proposals were under consideration, far more than usual, an indication of Mount Evans’ controversial nature. Mount Soule, Mount Rosalie, Mount Cheyenne Arapaho, Mount Sisty and a request to keep the name the same also were on the table.

The proposal to maintain the Evans name would have redefined it to honor John Evans’ daughter, Anne Evans, who cofounded and supported some of Colorado’s largest cultural institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, the Central City Opera and the Denver Public Library.

The Colorado renaming board does not make final decisions on name changes. The panel oversees research, outreach to stakeholders, presentations from name change proponents and public comment before voting to make a name change.

Now that the group has voted to rename Mount Evans, it will recommend the new Mount Blue Sky name change to Gov. Jared Polis. If Polis agrees with the new name, his recommendation will be sent to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which has the authority to permanently change the prominent landmark’s name.

Renaming can take up to a year, board members have said.

Mount Blue Sky was nominated because it honors the Arapaho people who were known as the Blue Sky People and the Cheyenne people who have an annual ceremony of renewal of life called Blue Sky.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.