Devils Tower National Monument

A local group of citizens is requesting help to publicize Cheney’s derailment of the public process for the name change of Devils Tower.

Cheney has introduced a bill to permanently and irrevocably designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming as “Devils Tower,” overriding the public comment period that was scheduled to begin. This has created urgency to have publicity before the upcoming House vote on Cheney’s H.R. 401.

Contemporary Native Awareness Information Exhibits/Art & Media seeks a volunteer with social media skills who would enjoy forming Facebook and Twitter accounts for their  900+ followers to further the discussion and find support for alternatives to the name “Devils Tower.”

Bear Lodge

Spiritual Leader of the Great Sioux Nation Chief Arvol Looking Horse poses with Devils Tower in the background in Devils Tower, WY.

In November 2014, the Great Sioux nation spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse filed a formal petition with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to officially change the name of Devils Tower to Bear Lodge.

Usually, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names would embark on a consultation and comment period regarding the name change. However, the introduction of H.R 401 by Liz Cheney derails this process, as the Board has a policy of not acting on petitions to change a name if legislation involving the change is pending before Congress.

This designation is opposed by many Native groups who have long claimed that the name is a bad translation of the Sioux name, “Bear Lodge”

Enzi, and Barrasso have co-sponsored an identical bill in the Senate in support of Cheney’s proposal.

“About the Name.” National Park Service.
https://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/aboutthename.htm.

Letter from House Natural Resources Committee Member, Grijalva Provides Background:

H.R. 401 would officially designate the mountain at Devils Tower National Monument as Devils Tower. While this bill seems quite unassuming on its face, it is actually intended to bypass the serious concerns of local tribes that have long been offended by this erroneous name.

Devils Tower National Monument was the first established pursuant to the Antiquities Act by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The site receives 400,000 annual visits and is a popular recreation destination in northeastern Wyoming.

However, tribes in the area have long expressed concerns about the Devils Tower name, stating that it is offensive and does not reflect their understanding of the site and spiritual connection to the place.

Devils Tower is known by many other names to these tribes, almost all of which relate to a bear, as most of the origin stories connected to the monument prominently feature the animal. Most early commissioned maps and photos actually mark the mountain and surrounding area as Bear Lodge. However, the head of an 1870s Army-led expedition instead recorded the name of the mountain as Bad God Tower, which is just a botched translation of Bear Lodge. Bad God’s Tower morphed into Devils Tower, which was subsequently used as the name of the national monument when it was proclaimed in 1906.

To add insult to injury, these tribes do not associate the monument with bad gods or evil spirits in any way–in contrast, it is a very holy site. It is not only a place of cultural importance, but also of great religious significance that is still used for native religious ceremonies to this day. More than 25 Tribes in the Great Plains region hold the monument sacred, including the tribes that comprise the Great Sioux Nation. In November 2014, the Great Sioux nation spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse filed a formal petition with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to officially change the name of Devils Tower to Bear Lodge.

Usually, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names would embark on a consultation and comment period regarding the name change. However, the mere introduction of H.R 401 by Liz Cheney derails this process, as the Board has a policy of not acting on petitions to change a name if legislation involving the change is pending before Congress.

We appreciate the economic impact that Devils Tower offers to the State of Wyoming and the surrounding region, but that does not change the fact that its erroneous name is offensive to many citizens of this country. Passage of H.R. 401 would ignore the concerns of these tribal people and should be rejected.

Raul M. Grijalva,
Ranking Member, House Natural Resources Committee.

Who has the Authority to Change the Name

The National Park Service has no authority to change the names of the geologic feature, the populated place, or the national monument. The name of the geologic feature and the populated place may be changed by the United States Board on Geographic Names, the Congress, or the President. The name of the national monument may be changed by an act of Congress or by a Presidential Proclamation.

Update on Recent Developments

On September 16, 2015, Sen. Mike Enzi (WY) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large) introduced S. 2039 and H.R. 3527, respectively, in the United States Congress. The purpose of both bills is to retain the name Devils Tower for both the geologic feature and the populated place. Even if these bills do not become law during the 114th Congress, as a result of their introduction, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names – in accordance with its Policy I – cannot consider any proposed name change until at least 90 days after the beginning of the next session of Congress (April 4, 2017 at the earliest).The Wyoming Board on Geographic Names also adheres to Policy I. Accordingly, neither the United States Board nor the Wyoming Board are currently accepting comments on the November 20, 2014 proposal.

Actions To Take

Read the bills

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/401
https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/70

Comment on the Proposal to Change the Name of the National Monument

Comments regarding the proposal to change the name of “Devils Tower National Monument” to “Bear Lodge National Monument” may be sent to your respective congressional representative or the White House.

Assist the resource group with this discussion

Contemporary Native Awareness Information Exhibits/Art & Media located in Cody WY is seeking assistance in forming a Facebook page and Twitter account to facilitate discussion and provide information on this proposed legislation. Contact Su Child at su.child@yahoo.com

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