BGN Could Decide on Yellowstone Name Changes This Summer

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) could decide this summer whether to change the names of Hayden Valley and Mount Doane in Yellowstone National Park.

The announcement comes after a coalition of Native American tribes filed a formal petition with teh BGN.

Last September, we reported representatives from over half-a-dozen tribes had gathered at the Roosevelt Arch to present their petition to Yellowstone Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney. The tribes had announced the ceremony earlier that week.

The National Park Service is one of 22 government agencies with representatives on the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

According to the petition, cited in Wyofile, the name changes would be made “in honor of all Tribal nations that have treaty rights and interests to Greater Yellowstone and those with an ancestral connection to this sacred landscape and our relatives, the Buffalo Nation.”

In their petition, the tribes call for Hayden Valley to be renamed “Buffalo Nations Valley” and for Mount Doane to be renamed “First People’s Mountain.”

Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden led the 1871 survey that contributed, in no small part, to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Gustavus C. Doane served as a member of the military escort (as a member of the U.S. Cavalry) and previously co-led an expedition into the Yellowstone region in 1870.

According to Wyofile, at least 28 tribes have advocated for the name change. In their petition, the tribes say the names of Hayden and Doane have no place in a national park and carry particular, negative significance for Native Americans.

According to the petition, Hayden advocated for the “extermination” of Native Americans unless they took up agriculture and pastoralism. Doane, meanwhile, participated in the 1870 Marias Massacre in Montana, where Company F of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry murdered 173 members of the Piegan Blackfeet Tribe in their own camp—most of whom were women and children.

A pair of Montana historians have voiced support for changing the name of Mount Doane, saying his involvement in the Marias Massacre (and his military record during the Indian Wars) disqualify him.

According to the Board’s Executive Secretary for Domestic Names, Lou Yost, the board decides geographic names based on consultation with area residents and government stakeholders.

“We get input from the county board of commissioners and the state board on geographic names,” Yost said in an interview. “In this case, the National Park Service as well.” From Wyofile:

The board reaches out to the local governments and encourages engagement. “Basically, it’s a ground-up process,” the BGN’s Yost said. “Local acceptance of any name is important to the Board,” he wrote. The changes are allowed under policies set by the Board on Geographic Names, however, which can alter names “asserted to be offensive.”

The National Park Service will make comments to the Board on Geographic Names “when they advise us that the Yellowstone locations in question are on their agenda at a future meeting,” NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson said in an email. “This is based on our policy to not comment publicly until the Board meets.”

According to Wyofile, Wyoming’s Park County Commission has already submitted a Geographic Name Proposal Recommendation form—rejecting both Buffalo Nations Valley and First People’s Mountain. According to Wyofile, the form has room for comments, but the Commission provided none.

Interest in changing the names of Hayden Valley and Mount Doane gained traction in 2014, when the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council voted in favor of advocating name changes. Following the September 2017 petition presentation outside Yellowstone, then-chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association Brandon Sazue submitted the proposal to the BGN, which formally published the request December 30, 2017 in a quarterly review list.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

Check Also

Yellowstone National Park South Entrance, Yellowstone visitation

2024 Yellowstone free admission days unveiled

While we don’t expect any of you to change your 2024 travel plans, the National …