Native Americans Call to Change Names of Yellowstone Sites

An organization of tribal leaders representing Indian Nations in the Dakotas and Nebraska has called for a name change of Yellowstone National Park’s Mt. Doane and Hayden Valley.

Mt. Doane, a 10,500-foot peak located in the Absaroka Range along the eastern boundary of the park, was named after Gustavus Doane, an American lieutenant who played a major role in a large massacre of Native peoples in 1870. Tribes across the United States and Canada have joined a petition to change the name of Mt. Doane to “First Peoples Mountain.”

In addition, a number of groups have called to change the name of Hayden Valley, a major attraction located in the center of Yellowstone National Park. The valley was created by glacial retreat about 13,000 years ago. However, like Mt. Doane, the name of the valley is contentious. It was named after Ferdinand V. Hayden, a geologist and surveyor who advocated for removal of Native Americans.

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park (Source: Freddie Tanedo/Flickr).
The name change petitions in Yellowstone mirror a national movement to remove monuments and landmarks tied to racism.  
 In an interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Chief Stanley Charles Grier of the Piikani Nation said Hayden “incited this hatred towards indigenous peoples at the time in his policies and his written statements.”

In August, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, along with individual tribes, submitted a proposition to change the name of the iconic valley to
 “Buffalo Nations Valley.”


However, controversy surrounds these petitions. In early 2018, elected county park commissioners in Wyoming voted against the Native Americans’ proposal for these landmarks to be renamed. Some commissioners expressed that changing these two names would open the door to a long series of controversies and debates over the naming of other landmarks. Moreover, they have advocated that people like the current names and are comfortable with them.
Although the committee voted against the name change, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names has the final authority on the decision.Regardless of what the board determines, many Native communities remain committed to calling the landmarks by their Indigenous names. Len Necefer, a member of Navajo Nation who received a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy is a leader in this effort. Necefer stimulates and encourages people to place geotags using the location’s Indigenous name. Necefer created social media pages on Facebook and Instagram to check in to places using geotags that show Native place names and indicate their locations around Colorado. @NativeOutdoors has over 20 thousand followers on Instagram and encourages the dialogue and acknowledgement of Native communities in public wild spaces.
@NativesOutdoors(Source: NativesOutdoors/Instagram)

The push to rename Hayden Valley and Mount Doane is part of a movement that is likely to continue.

Doctor Accused of Taking Artifacts from Glacier

Hiker and tent at Hamilton Lake on High Sierra Trail, courtesy of Miguel Vieria/Flickr
Hiker and tent at Hamilton Lake on High Sierra Trail, courtesy of Miguel Vieria/Flickr. Note: the image was not taken where Bourne found the artifact.

A doctor from Mono County, California has been accused of looting Native American artifacts from a melting glacier on public and tribal lands in Death Valley National Park.

Jonathan Bourne, an anesthesiologist, was indicted on 21 counts of looting following a yearlong investigation that began after he posted photos of himself finding a wooden bow out of a receding glacier in the High Sierra. Dart points, obsidian cutting tools, stone tablets and glass beads were also among Bourne’s alleged findings. Some of these artifacts are believed to have been removed from a cremation and burial site in the Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest.

“Collecting artifacts on public lands is not harmless fun — it’s a serious crime,” Greg Haverstock, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist told the Los Angeles Times. “It damages archaeological records and the shared heritage of our nation. It also impacts tribal members who regard the removal of such items as sacrilegious.”

Archaeologists reported wood splinters they found in the glacier matched the wood in Bourne’s bow. Investigators from the U.S. Forest Service found about 30,000 ancient items in a search of his mansion, according to authorities.

Bob Burd, a resident of Fresno who organised the hike where Bourne found the bow, wrote on a hiking club website that Bourne used stones to cut through the ice that surrounded the bow. No mention has been made of which Native American community the bow comes from.

Bourne’s lawyer, Mark Coleman said Bourne “spotted a piece of wood, which appeared to be recently exposed from an ice patch as a result of global warming. Recognizing that if the item had any historical significance it would quickly decay from exposure, Dr. Bourne recovered the item.”

Last week, the doctor pleaded not guilty in court and will return before the judge later this year. If convicted, Bourne’s charges could amount to 98 years in prison and $2.03 million in fines. It is not the first case to address the unlawful removal of Native American artifacts from public and tribal lands.