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Tribal Leaders enter Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Brad Orsted.

It is dangerously easy to take place names for granted. More often than not, most people are not aware of the dark history that clings to many of them in this country. Yellowstone National Park is not immune to harboring places named after violent racists who participated or supported the shameful genocide of Indigenous Peoples that the United States undertook as it was "manifesting its destiny." There is a valiant effort underway by Tribal leaders to change two well known place names within what is now the Park, land that has been home to numerous tribes for tens of thousands of years.

 

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Chief Grier presents Yellowstone Deputy Superintendent Pat Kennedy with the name change declaration. Photo courtesy of Brad Orsted.

On September 16, Chief Grier of the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and fifteen other Tribal leaders representing the Shoshone-Bannock, the Great Sioux Nation, the Blackfeet, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, and others, traveled to Yellowstone’s north entrance in the Gardiner Basin to deliver a declaration to Yellowstone National Park, calling for changing the names of the Hayden Valley and Mount Doane, both named after dastardly historic figures. BFC was honored to be invited to attend this historic event. We stand in strong solidarity with the Tribes, and we will do what we can to help accomplish this, and we urge you to take action with us as well.

 

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Shoshone-Bannock Councilman Lee Juan tyler informs Park officials that the Park is tribal homelands. Photo courtesy of Brad Orsted.

Why should these names be changed? A quick look at who these two men were and what they represented is all the reason we need. On January 23, 1870, the 2nd U.S. Calvary was lead by Doane in what he later bragged was “the greatest slaughter of Indians ever made.” In the wee hours of morning, the soldiers fell upon and murdered sleeping Piikani people who were camped with Chief Heavy Runner along the Marias (or Grizzly Bear) River. The government reported 173 people were killed, while other witnesses counted nearly 220 dead. Only fifteen of who were men of fighting age; the rest: women, children, and elders. Decades later, Doane continued to boast about these atrocious actions. No mountain should bear the burden to be named for the murderer who lead this charge, and the descendants of those who were massacred deserve to not be thusly insulted. The Tribes are seeking to rename Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain. We have no doubt that the mountain will be pleased with this.

 

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Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribal Councilman Leonard Gray, Crow Creek Sioux Chairman Brandon Sazue, and Blackfoot Confederacy Leaders during the protest. Photo courtesy of Brad Orsted.

As to the Hayden Valley, the wicked character this beautiful grassland valley is named for — Ferdinand V. Hayden — was a defender of slavery. He held the view that slave-holding plantation owners were “chivalrous and hospitable,” and claimed that “the treatment of the negro was not barbarous, and many seemingly cruel laws were greatly needed as measures of self-protection on the part of whites.” While Doane participated in genocide, Hayden was an advocate for it. In his US Geological Survey of Wyoming, published by the U.S. government in 1872, Hayden stated, “Unless they are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits they must ultimately be exterminated.” Hayden categorized Indigenous people as “the lower race.” The beautiful valley full of gentle, rolling hills which teems with wild buffalo every summer should not carry the name of such a monster. The Tribes are asking that the Hayden Valley be renamed Buffalo Nations Valley. Homeland for so many tribes for tens of thousands of years, which now harbors the only remaining population of wild, migratory buffalo, as well as the sacred grizzly bear, deserves a new name. We believe the buffalo and the land herself will welcome this change.

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Piikani Blackfoot leaders, Councillor Lowell Horn, Chief Grier, Elder Jim Strikes With A Gun, and Councillor Barnaby Provost. Photo courtesy of Brad Orsted.

In a recent must-read CounterPunch article Chief Grier asks important questions which demand an answer, "If the names of a war criminal and a white supremacist are retained, at what point does ignorance or willful omission cease and indoctrination begin? When is there disquiet that a family’s album of smiles and selfies was made in a valley named after somebody who proposed the ‘extermination' of another race, and vindicated slave owners because, after all, he believed 'the pre-eminence, both intellectual and moral, of the white race' was ‘incontestable’?”

TAKE ACTION! We urge you to join us and stand in solidarity with the Tribes. To succeed, we must engage in a full on bombardment of Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and flood them with emails and phone calls (307-344-2002) and demand that these names be changed. Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain, and Hayden Valley to Buffalo Nations Valley. Chief Grier suggests that we include in our contact a message (in your own words) to reflect this statement: "What place do the names of a war criminal who massacred defenseless women and children, and a white supremacist who advocated the genocide of Native people, have in the world’s first national park, which – oh, by the way – was inter-tribal Indian land for over 10,000 years before it was taken to establish ‘Yellowstone.’” As they try to shirk off their responsibility for slaughtering our national mammal, the sacred buffalo, to Montana, Yellowstone will say that they do not have the authority to change these names, but they have incredible influence to help make it happen. In addition to contacting these decision-makers, it is critical to contact the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Write to: Executive Secretary Domestic Geographic Names Committee, U.S. Board on Geographic Names, c/o U.S. Geological Survey, 523 National Center, Reston, VA 20192-0523. Please share this article with your friends and colleagues on social media! Thank you so much!

Read a follow-up article to Saturday’s event on Native News Online, Backed by Civil Rights “Genius” Dr. Cornel West, Tribes Defy Storm, Bureaucracy & Deliver Name Change Declaration to Yellowstone

In other news, Chief Joseph Standing Bear extended an invitation and the offer of a free table at Midwest SOARRING Foundation's 23rd Annual Harvest Pow Wow. Supporter Shirley Watters will graciously be representing BFC this Saturday and Sunday in Naperville, IL.

Additional info:
Midwest SOARRING Foundation
Harvest Pow Wow

 

 

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BFC's goal is to stop the slaughter and harassment of Yellowstone's wild buffalo herds, protect the natural habitat of wild free-roaming buffalo and native wildlife, and to work with people of all Nations to honor the sacredness of wild buffalo. learn more yellow 2

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