Federal vote to rename Mount Evans in Colorado delayed

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
A sign on Mount Evans Road welcomes visitors to the mountain, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022.

Updated 3:21 p.m.

The final step to determine the future of Colorado’s Mount Evans was indefinitely delayed after the Department of the Interior received a request from a tribal government for a mandatory government-to-government consultation.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the committee that acts as the final hurdle for the renaming of Mount Evans, announced it received the request just minutes before its Thursday morning meeting began. A discussion and vote on renaming Mount Evans was on the agenda.

Under the Department of the Interior Departmental Manual, a tribe can request a consultation with the department if the tribe believes that an office is taking action that impacts it. The vote was deferred after the department received the request. 

Jennifer Runyon, a member of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names research staff, said the Northern Cheyenne tribe requested the consultation.

“Such consultations are conducted privately between senior DOI officials and Tribal leadership according to relevant DOI policy,” Runyon wrote in an email. “The BGN delayed the scheduled decision on Mount Evans today in order to honor this request for consultation. We presume a vote on the pending proposals will still happen at some point, but the date is unknown.”

The vote in the U.S. Board on Geographic Names is expected to be the final step in the long process to rename Mount Evans. The mountain is currently named for Colorado territorial Gov. John Evans, who signed the proclamation used to incite the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. The name Mount Blue Sky, first proposed by the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, emerged as a clear favorite within Colorado.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board recommended the new designation Mount Blue Sky in November. Gov. Jared Polis approved the recommendation and sent it to the federal government, where the proposal now awaits final approval. The designation has also received support from Clear Creek County, where the 14er is located, and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. 

The only known opposition to the name so far came from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, who instead supported the name Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho. The tribe has not publicly commented on the matter. 

When the U.S. Board on Geographic Names reschedules its discussion on the future of the mountain’s name, it will weigh multiple options, despite Colorado’s support of just Mount Blue Sky. The other options include Mount Cheyenne-Arapaho, Mount Rosalie, Mount Sisty, Mount Soule and a continuation of Mount Evans, in honor of Evans’ daughter, who played no role in tribal affairs.

The board is scheduled to meet next month.