Two Native American tribes have announced they will gather at Yellowstone’s North Entrance and protest in favor of changing the name of Hayden Valley and Mount Doane.
According to the Washington Post, members of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the Great Sioux Nation will gather at the entrance Saturday. It is not known how many will be in attendance.
The tribes say they are protesting the place names because both men, at one time or another, advocated or carried out violence against Native Americans.
According to the tribes, they wish to see Hayden Valley be renamed Buffalo Nations Valley and Mount Doane renamed First People’s Mountain.
The Post mentions that arguments over place names and their relation to Native American tribes has been an ongoing debate; for instance, some tribes have worked years to see Devils Tower in Wyoming be renamed Bear Lodge, as it is known to tribes like the Lakota, Crow, and Cheyenne. From the Post:
“America’s first national park should no longer have features named after the proponents and exponents of genocide,” the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which represents every tribe in Montana and Wyoming, stated in a 2014 resolution.
The tribes asked Yellowstone last year to rename Hayden Valley and Mount Doane. Park officials responded by explaining the renaming process overseen by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names, park Superintendent Dan Wenk said.
“The National Park Service understands that this is an important and sensitive issue,” Wenk said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to continuing this conversation.”
The Park Service has a responsibility to take up the matter with the board on the tribes’ behalf, said Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue.
“We are not individuals, we are sovereign nations, many with treaty rights to this region, and those treaties are enshrined in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution,” Sazue said by email.
The Board on Geographic Names, according to the Post, has not proposed any name changes for either Hayden Valley or Mount Doane.
The names Hayden and Doane refer to Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and Gustavus Cheyney Doane, two men who figure prominently in the early history of Yellowstone National Park.
Prior to its status as a national park, Yellowstone was a familiar region to many Native American tribes. The Shoshone and Bannock tribes, for instance, regularly hunted in the park. Some members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe (Tukudeka, or “Sheepeaters”) lived around Yellowstone year-round. Sheepeater Cliffs, just outside Mammoth Hot Springs in northern Yellowstone National Park, is one reminder of their presence.
In 1871, Hayden helmed a famous Geological Survey that included many prominent geologists and cartographers, as well as artists Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson, of the Yellowstone area. It was the 1871 survey’s work that convinced Congress to set aside Yellowstone as America’s first national park.
The 1871 Survey was responsible for a number of place names still seen in Yellowstone National Park, including Mount Doane.
The Post reports that Hayden “called for exterminating American Indians who wouldn’t acquiesce to becoming farmers and ranchers,” although it does not cite Hayden directly.
In 1883, Hayden (along with Alfred Richard Cecil Selwyn, director of the Geological Survey of Canada), edited a volume entitled North America that included a chapter on Native Americans full of offensive (though, at that time, widely accepted) stereotypes about Native Americans and prognostications that tribes would become “civilized” in due course.
Doane accompanied the 1871 survey as a guide, having previously participated in an 1870 expedition with Henry Pitt Langford, who became Yellowstone’s first superintendent.
Arguably, Doane is more famous for his participation in the Indian Wars of the 19th century, when many plains tribes skirmished with both soldiers and settlers. Doane, as a leading member of Company F of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, for instance, participated in the 1870 Marias Massacre, where at least 173 Piegan Blackfeet Indians were murdered in their camp along the Marias River in Montana, purportedly in response to the murder of a white fur trader. The death toll included women and children.
According to historian Paul R. Wylie in his book on the Marias Massacre (Blood on the Marias), Doane was held as the “first and last man” in the camp. Toward the end of his life (in a letter to one W.F. Sanders postmarked January 7, 1891), Doane looked fondly upon his participation in the Marias Massacre, saying “the work we were then doing would be rewarded, as it has been” (Wylie 244).
Doane played an important role in the Nez Perce War of 1877, chasing Chief Joseph through Yellowstone National Park; Joseph eventually surrendered near the Canadian border in October 1877. The same year, Doane visited the site of The Battle of the Little Bighorn and helped recover the remains of Colonel George Armstrong Custer, among other soldiers.
Between 1890 and 1892, Doane campaigned extensively to become superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, but was never considered.
This article has been edited and updated with new information.