Tribes demand Yellowstone place names changed

Liz Kearney
Yellowstone Newspapers
Photo courtesy of National Park Service.  Photographers line up to take pictures in this undated image of the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. The valley is named for Ferdinand Hayden.

Native American leaders want the government to rename features in Yellowstone National Park that honor 19th-century military leaders who led campaigns against indigenous peoples.
“America’s first national park should no longer have features named after the proponents and exponents of genocide, as is the case with Hayden Valley and Mount Doane,” the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which represents every tribe in Montana and Wyoming, declared in a December 2014 resolution quoted in a news release issued Sept. 11.
Hayden Valley, bisected by a scenic and often bison-filled stretch of road between Canyon and Lake, is named for Ferdinand V. Hayden, who led the Hayden Expedition of 1871, which documented the natural wonders that would become Yellowstone National Park. Gustavus C. Doane was a member of the 1870 Washburn-Langford-Doane party that also explored the upper Yellowstone area.
Hayden was a military man, who the tribal leaders accuse of promoting genocide. In an 1872 publication, “U.S. Geological Survey of Wyoming,” Hayden wrote of tribal peoples, “Unless they are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits they must ultimately be exterminated.”
The tribal leaders propose renaming Hayden Valley “‘Buffalo Nations Valley,’ in honor of all Tribal Nations that have treaty rights and interests in Greater Yellowstone and an ancestral connection to this sacred landscape and our relatives, the Buffalo Nation,” according to the release.  
Park officials have been aware of the tribe’s request for some time, and informed the tribes about the U.S. Geological Survey’s role in name changes.
“The National Park Service understands that this is an important and sensitive issue,” Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a statement Sept. 12. “These tribes contacted us with their request in Spring 2016 and we explained the place name process managed by USGS at that time. We look forward to continuing this conversation.”
Chairman Brandon Sazue, of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, called for the renaming of Hayden Valley based on statements Hayden made on his belief in the superiority of whites.
“Over four million visitors a year now stand awed by the beauty of that valley and the power of the buffalo and grizzly, just as our peoples did for thousands of years before,” Sazue said in the release. “If the names of a war criminal and a white supremacist are retained, 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 he believed ‘the pre-eminence, both intellectual and moral, of the white race’ was ‘incontestable’?”
Tribal leaders with the Blackfoot Confederacy and Great Sioux Nation led a ceremonial ride through Gardiner to Arch Park on Saturday, Sept. 16 to present their formal request for name changes to the National Park Service.


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