BGN Approves Chipeta Mountain Name Change!

BGN Approves Chipeta Mountain Name Change!

Hello Everyone,
What an amazing few weeks it has been.  Thank you for supporting the Chipeta Mountain Project!  Below is the message we received on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 from the USGS Board on Geographic Names in Washington D.C.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Subject: approval of your Chipeta Mountain proposal
Dear Mr. Iverson,

We are pleased to inform you that the BGN just approved your proposal to change the application of the name Chipeta Mountain. We will send you a formal letter with the official feature description later this month.

Roland McCook Interview

Roland McCook Interview

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In the last few months we’ve had the privilege of getting to know Mr. Roland McCook, Chipeta’s great, great grandson.  On Tuesday, May 9th, Mr. McCook visited Salida and he and Wayne Iverson were interviewed by Mark Monroe and Jimmy Sellars on KHEN-LP 106.9 FM, Salida's community radio station. Listen to the interview here:  

Moving Mountains: Chipeta Mountain Moves to Unnamed Peak

Moving Mountains: Chipeta Mountain Moves to Unnamed Peak

On Friday, May 12th the following article, written by Ann Marie Swan, was printed in the Mountain Mail – Salida’s local newspaper.

Moving Mountains: Chipeta Mountain Moves to Unnamed Peak            

By Ann Marie Swan
In the Mountain Mail – Friday, May 12, 2017

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved Salida author Wayne Iverson’s application to rename Chipeta Mountain from a 12,850-foot subpeak to an unnamed peak at 13,472 feet in the Sawatch Range on Wednesday.

Jennifer Runyon, research staffer with the BGN, said the name change went into effect when the board approved it, and the geographic coordinates will be updated in the Geographic Names Information System, the BGN’s official names database. “We will also notify the U.S. Geological Survey mapping center, which will move the label the next time the topographic map is reprinted,” Runyon said. 

USGS maps will be reprinted in the normal revision cycle, in one to three years, she said, so no costs are associated with the name change. Notification letters and emails will be sent to all appropriate parties. Google Maps will note the change eventually.

Iverson said: “I’m happy because more light will shine on Ute history and causes. I’m relieved. It’s a nice win and it’s symbolic.”

Iverson got involved with the mountaintop name change after reading a letter in Colorado Central Magazine in October 2013 from Salida resident Craig Nielson, who pointed out that Chipeta Mountain, named for the wife of Ute Chief Ouray, was not visible from town as indicated in an article with a photo. Nielson knew because he had pulled out the quad and climbed the unnamed 13,472-foot peak that locals mistakenly called Chipeta. But Chipeta was actually far below to the southwest and hidden by this higher peak. The BGN considered that locals had already referred to the 13,472-foot peak as Chipeta in making the decision to officially change the name.

In November 2015, Iverson saw an image of thirteeners by Colorado photographer Jeff Burch with Chipeta Mountain labeled “out of sight behind here,” the unnamed 13,472-foot peak. This label moved Iverson into action to honor Chipeta, a remarkable woman known for her skillful, gentle diplomacy and inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Iverson saw the attempt to recognize Chipeta with a subpeak as a slight. 

Native Americans don’t normally name mountaintops after themselves, but, instead, look at natural, descriptive characteristics for names, such as Bears Ears in Utah. But Roland McCook, the great, great grandson of Chipeta and Ouray, said he sees the renaming of Chipeta Mountain as “respect for those no longer here. We’re grateful that she’s recognized that way.”

McCook is chairman of Native American Cultural programs in Montrose and former chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s Native American Repatriation Review Committee, which returns Indian artifacts and human remains to native peoples. He’s also been a go-between when the Bureau of Land Management projects encroached on Indian lands. McCook is retired and gives historical lectures to “keep Native American issues out front.”

Iverson is basking in this victory of dignifying Chipeta. But, he added, “What’s important is what happens after this and the awareness of the original inhabitants of this area and what happened to them.”

Press Release: Local Mountain Name Incorrectly Located

Avid hiker begins campaign to relocate the name Chipeta Mountain

(Salida, CO: March 8, 2016 – International Women’s Day) – Local author Wayne Iverson discovered, through an article in Colorado Central Magazine and further research, a possible error in the naming of Chipeta Mountain. Mr. Iverson has partnered with local community organizers, Jimmy and Mark Sellars of Sellars Project Space, to correct it. 

In 1843, Chipeta was born in what is now Conejos, Colorado. She was advisor and confidant to her renowned husband, Chief Ouray of the Tabaguache (Uncompahgre) Ute band. She herself was known as an Indian rights advocate, diplomat, and peacekeeper. She died in 1924. Chipeta was selected to be on a centennial tapestry created to honor eighteen women who played important roles in the settlement and development of Colorado. It now hangs in the State Capitol Building.

Chipeta Mountain, located next to Mount Ouray near Salida, Colorado, is named for the second highest point on its massif – the highest remaining unnamed. Thus the effort to commemorate one of Colorado’s most important people ends up coming across as more of an insult. This campaign to move the name “Chipeta Mountain” from the 12,850-foot sub peak to the 13,472- foot highpoint has now been launched at The website asks that visitors sign a petition that will be added to an application to the U. S. Board on Geographic Names asking for the moving of the name to the true summit.

The Chipeta Mountain project is a community-based volunteer group and welcomes support and volunteers through the website mentioned above. For more information, radio or television interviews, image requests, etc. please contact Wayne Iverson or Jimmy Sellars at

Chipeta: A detailed history

Chipeta: A detailed history

In 1845, Ute Indians came across an apparently abandoned Kiowa (Plains) Apache camp. On closer inspection, they discovered that a massacre had taken place. Only one person survived – a two-year old girl who was then adopted into the Ute tribe. They named her Chipeta.

Chipeta and her husband to be, Chief Ouray first saw each other in 1851 after Ouray’s mother died and his father brought him and two other siblings to Colorado. Ouray married Black Mare in 1853 and they had a son, Pahlone. Black Mare died in 1858 and Chipeta was chosen by the family to help care for Pahlone and the household. Her care pleased Ouray and they were married in 1859.  Ouray was 26, Chipeta was 16.

Chipeta and her husband, Ouray, were known as the Ute peacemakers. They were married the same year that gold was discovered in Colorado and that finding of “color” dramatically increased conflicts between Utes and whites. Perhaps formative warlike events in their younger years also contributed to their desire for peace.

Ouray was born in 1833 and raised between Taos and Abiquiu, New Mexico. One of his parents was Jicarilla Apache, the other Ute. He witnessed first hand America’s allegedly beneficial policy of imperialistic expansion – Manifest Destiny. He was a thirteen-year-old living near Taos when the territory of New Mexico, then under Mexican rule, fell to U.S. forces under Stephen Watts Kearny in August 1846. He also saw the Taos Revolt – a popular insurrection the following year by New Mexicans and Pueblo allies against the United States' occupation – get crushed.

Chipeta and Ouray were also friends of former Indian agent and Ft. Garland commander Kit Carson and his wife Josefa. Carson reinforced what Ouray had already seen – that the United States Army could not be defeated. Carson also told them that white people only recognized land rights if a piece of paper was involved. Thus he encouraged treaties, especially after Colorado was organized as a Territory in 1861.

Ouray thought in Spanish. He also spoke Ute, Apache, and some English. When Lafayette Head became Indian agent for the Utes in 1861, Carson recommended and Head hired Ouray as a skilled interpreter for $500 per year. Four treaties were created (and broken) in Chipeta and Ouray’s lifetimes. Ouray’s allegedly said of negotiations with whites, “Agreements the Indian makes with the government are like the agreements a buffalo makes with the hunter after it has been pierced by many arrows. All it can do is lie down and give in.”

In October of 1863, a treaty was signed where the Utes ceded their lands east of the Continental Divide (the Shining Mountains). Governor Evans then asked Ouray to settle disputes between Utes and white settlers. He had to travel great distances. Plains Indians had kidnapped Pahlone, Ouray’s son by his first marriage, during a buffalo hunt earlier that year. Chipeta loved him like her own son and was lonely. She asked to travel with Ouray, which was unusual at the time. Ouray gained a reputation among white settlers as a fair man. Chipeta was often Ouray’s only confidant. He treated her as an equal. When they went into Ute camps, Chipeta visited with the women and many times heard from them how their husbands really felt about matters. Chipeta was allowed in some camps when Ouray was not. She was the only woman invited to Ute Councils.

The signees of the first treaty did not form a representative group of Utes, however, so a second treaty was signed in 1868. It left the Utes with a rectangle of land west of the Continental Divide – basically the western third of Colorado minus the Yampa River Valley. The Tabeguache band of Utes to which Ouray and Chipeta belonged was given their own agency called Los Pinos near Cochetopa pass west of Saguache. Ouray got a house for being interpreter. He was also hired to hunt meat for the agency staff and thus had two government paychecks. Many Utes wondered how Ouray got such a good deal and speculated that he gave up Ute lands for his own profit. Several attempts were made on his life.

Indian agents came and went frequently and their quality varied widely. In May 1872, Charles Adams became the fourth Los Pinos agent in three years. He was a good one, however, and later played a key role in settling the problems caused by the Meeker Massacre. His wife, Margaret, and Chipeta became close friends.

Gold was discovered in the San Juan Mountains and whites clamored for more land. At first Ouray refused, but eventually the Brunot treaty was signed in 1873 and the mineral rich mountains were carved out of Ute territory. The Los Pinos agency was moved to an area just south of present day Montrose in the Uncompahgre Valley. The chiefs who signed were not told that the treaty named Ouray Chief of all the Utes and doubled his annual salary. The Utes in Colorado were a loose tribe of six bands. This did not sit well with some.

The fourth treaty came because of the Meeker Massacre. It was during this event that Chipeta truly shined as the divide between the Utes and whites grew wider. A combination of what Chipeta called “bad Utes” and an equally poor Indian agent, Nathan Meeker (who had organized the cooperative agricultural community of Greeley), led to the flare up. Meeker threatened to bring soldiers to the reservation to take disagreeable Utes away. In September 1878, a few White River Utes stole horses and shot a white man. Governor Pitkin requested military help. Ute scouts saw Army troops marching toward their land from Wyoming and remembered Meeker’s threats. Visions of the Sand Creek Massacre danced in their heads. A Ute chief rode out to talk to the Army commander and asked him and one or two soldiers to come to the agency to talk with Meeker. The commander refused. The Utes ambushed the troops and killed all the officers in minutes. When other Utes found out about the attack, they killed Meeker and the agency men. The women and children were taken hostage.

Ouray, already ill with a kidney disease that would soon take his life, was depressed by this turn of events. He talked about joining his brothers for one last fight against the whites. Chipeta spent the entire night talking him out of this idea. Ouray eventually ordered the White River Utes to retreat. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Schurz asked trusted former Indian agent Charles Adams to help. In late October, Adams rode out with a loyal group of Tabeguache men. He convinced the Army to leave the reservation. The White River chiefs released the hostages. After the hostages arrived at Chipeta’s home, they reported that Chipeta did everything possible to make them comfortable.

Ouray, Charles Adams, and another man were appointed by Schurz to make a formal inquiry into the incident. Ouray got permission to move the investigation to Washington, D.C. where a fairer trial could take place. Chipeta was named a member of the delegation. Secretary Schurz decided the whole White River band had to be punished for the deaths at Meeker. He assigned them to a reservation in Utah where the Uintah band of Utes lived. He moved the three Southern Ute bands to the very southwest corner of Colorado. He offered the Tabeguache Utes a smaller reservation where the Gunnison River and the Grand (Colorado) River met. The Ute delegates in Washington did not argue and signed the treaty. The Ute delegation had to convince three fourths of all Ute males to sign the treaty by Oct 15, 1880.

Ouray, who had stopped wearing white men’s clothes, also refused to take a carriage on the long trip to Ignacio to try to convince the Southern Ute bands to sign the treaty. The exhausting ride on horseback severely weakened him. He died on August 24, 1880. A Muache chief who usually opposed Ouray was then struck by lightning. Southern Utes took it as a sign and signed the treaty. The Tabeguache Utes did not want to sign the treaty either, so Otto Mears paid each Ute who would sign the contract two dollars and the required signatures were collected.

A team of men who oversaw the move of the Tabeguache band to their new reservation in 1881 had the power to move the Utes to another place if the Colorado River area (think Fruita) was not suitable for farming. Otto Mears, a member of the team, convinced the others to force the Utes to settle in arid Utah instead.

Chipeta married again and adopted six boys. The land they lived on was very poor. In 1916 a former Indian agent sent to investigate described Chipeta as “destitute.” He wrote the Commissioner of Indian Affairs recommending irrigation water for the parched land. The Commissioner sent Chipeta a shawl. Chipeta became a sort of celebrity in her later years and travelled back to Colorado for events and visits. She died in 1924 (the same year that Indians became U.S. citizens) on the Ouray reservation in Utah, blind, at age 81. She is buried near Montrose where she and Ouray lived until 1880.

Chipeta was selected to be on a centennial tapestry created to honor eighteen women who played important roles in the settlement and development of Colorado. It now hangs in the State Capitol Building.

Wayne Iverson

Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn
Ute Indian Lands by Virginia McConnell Simmons
(Colorado Central - August 2014)
The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico
by Virginia McConnell Simmons

Excerpts from our Chipeta Mountain proposal

Excerpts from our Chipeta Mountain proposal

The uploaded magazine article is from the March 2016 issue of Colorado Central Magazine. It explains the issue and also includes website and a Facebook page so people can express their support. We expect it to be overwhelming. We will also send the magazine article to every City Council Member and Chambers of Commerce in Salida, Buena Vista, Ouray, Ridgeway, Montrose, and Delta, Colorado. It will go to the County Commissioners in Chaffee, Ouray, Montrose and Delta Counties. It will be forwarded to the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Ouray and Uintah Ute Tribal Governments. The Colorado Governor, his Office of Indian Affairs, our State Senator and Congressman, and the Colorado Board of Names will be contacted. Our U. S. Senators and Congressman will be alerted, as will the United States Forrest Service in our area and the respective Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I’m sure we will think of other organizations and individuals as we go along.

Descriptive information:
Describe the feature. This might include physical shape . . . elevation of summit.

Chipeta Mountain is the name currently associated with a 12,580-foot sub peak on the Chipeta massif. We propose to move the name to the highest point on said massif – Unnamed Point 13,472 (GNIS and maps checked). Both are located on the USGS Mount Ouray quadrangle in Colorado. They are in the San Isabel National Forest.

We strongly believe that an error on the part of the applicant or the BGN was made when the lower point was named Chipeta Mountain instead of the higher point. The GNIS considers 12,580-foot Chipeta Mountain to be a "summit." The BGN definition for a summit is a "PROMINENT (caps added) elevation rising above the surrounding level of the earth's surface." Being more than 600 feet lower than Unnamed Point 13,472, it is clearly not ‘prominent’ as the uploaded pictures of the two features together show. The BGN can authorize name changes when the names were “originally authorized on the basis of incorrect information” (Chapter 3, Policy II). Can it not also authorize name “location” changes originally authorized on the basis of incorrect information? If you determine this to be true, perhaps change could be simply handled by the Board's staff.
BGN regulations also state that, “It is the policy of the Board to follow present-day local usage whenever possible” (Chapter 3, Policy II). The overwhelming number of people in the area (including Forest Service employees) I have contacted think that the highest point on the massive is Chipeta Mountain and are surprised to hear that it is a much lower sub peak. A simple questionnaire for Chaffee County residents will be included in our website – – and our Facebook page – Chipeta Mountain to informally gauge the extent of this misconception.

If you feel Board staff cannot handle this administratively, we understand. We are prepared to go the long route with this, if need be. We look forward to working with you on this project.

Biographical information:
Provide biographical information of the intended honoree, including her full name, birth & death dates, association with geographic feature, etc.

Chipeta Mountain has already been designated to commemorate Chipeta, the wife of Ute Chief Ouray. But the placement of her name on a lower sub peak and not the highest point on the massif
feels like more of an insult than a commemoration. We would like to move the location of name Chipeta Mountain to what is now referred to as Unnamed Peak 13,472.

Chipeta was selected to be on a centennial tapestry created to honor eighteen women who played important roles in the settlement and development of Colorado. The tapestry now hangs in the Colorado State Capitol building. A longer history of this remarkable woman is included in the uploaded magazine article.

How Did the Chipeta Mountain Project Begin?

How Did the Chipeta Mountain Project Begin?

Photo by Judy Haines

A letter to the editor in the October 2013 issue of Colorado Central Magazine first alerted me to this problem. Craig Neilson wrote, “Just wanted to point out that Chipeta Mountain is not visible from Salida, as indicated in your article via the photograph. What folks think is Chipeta, myself included until I got out the quad, is Point 13,472, which I like to call Craig’s Peak, since I finally climbed it last year after two previous spring attempts. This is ranked but unnamed Colorado 13er that comes in at number 272 in the official ranking of peaks, with parental lineage with Mount Ouray. . . On top, one can see the much lower Chipeta far below to the southwest and out of site from the valley, hidden by 13,472.” It didn’t seem possible. But Craig is a friend of mine and a reliable source. I just relegated it to the back of my mind.

Then in the November 4, 2015 issue of the Mountain Mail – a Salida newspaper – a section of Jeff Burch’s poster called “View Looking West from Salida, Colorado” that included Mount Ouray, Chipeta Mountain and Pahlone Peak was published. It indeed indicated that the highest point on the massive was Unnamed Point 13,472 and that Chipeta Mountain was “out of site over here.” The issue migrated to the front of my mind.

That did not seem right and I began my research into the matter. (A Lakota woman once said, “Every wasichu (white man) is doing it for himself. He just doesn’t always know why.”)

I had accidently plunged into aspects of Ute history in the fall of 2015 even before this cause came into focus in my brain. On October 28, I was heading out to explore the South Pass area of Saguache County and brushed up against the old Los Pinos (Ute Indian) Agency near Cochetopa Pass where Chipeta and Ouray once lived from 1869 to 1874.

In mid-November, Forrest Wittman and I went south to explore a newly proposed scenic byway that closely follows the Denver and Rio Grande railroad grade between Chama, New Mexico and Durango, Colorado. As we drove toward La Manga Pass, we went near the first Ute agency site near Conejos, Colorado when Lafayette Head was Indian agent in 1861. We got as far as Dulce, New Mexico, which is the headquarters of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. (Chief Ouray’s mother was Jicarilla Apache and the family lived in the Taos area until she died.) Ouray thought in Spanish. Some helpful folks in the local grocery store convinced us the we should not go further along the old railroad grade because the car we were driving was not suitable for the upcoming rough dirt road at that time of year.

In December, we took the first planned trip regarding the Chipeta Mountain issue. We rode out like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to Montrose to visit the Ute Indian Museum. The offices of the museum are temporarily located in the Montrose Visitor Center while remodeling of the museum building is taking place. We spoke at length with the museum director, CJ Brafford, a Lakota woman. (This was ironic since Ouray’s son by his first marriage to Black Mare, Palhone, was kidnapped by the Lakota). After a nice chat about Ute issues, she gave us the phone number of the Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, who I emailed on ??. We then drove out on Chipeta Road to the museum grounds south of town, which was still open, and visited the sarcophagus of Chipeta and grave of McCook, her younger brother.

On January 12, I took another trip on the proposed byway route from Chama to Durango that went through Ignacio, on the Southern Ute Reservation where Ouray is buried. I visited his monument in the Chief Ouray Memorial Cemetery on End of Trail Road and went to the southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.  

In December I exchanged these emails with Mike Rosso, owner of Colorado Central Magazine:

Hi Mike,                                              12/15/15

This is my first wack at this. Might you be interested in starting the campaign in Colorado Central? I could have it ready for the January/February issue if you have the space.

Cordially, Wayne

Hi Wayne,                                             12/17/15

My content is already set for Jan/Feb, but maybe we could visit about this sometime early next year?

Your thoughts?

On January 19 I was headed to the Meeker Massacre site in northwest Colorado when I spun out on ice on Interstate 70 near Dotsero. I had to cut the trip short, but spent the night in Delta and discovered the Ute Council Tree near my motel.

I would also like to follow the old narrow gauge Uintah Railroad route from Mack, Colorado over Baxter Pass to Dragon, Utah near where the Utes, including Chipeta, were relocated for their last indignity. Chipeta rode that railroad when going to meet friends in Colorado.

I’ve read two books about Chipeta and one about Ouray (by Smith and Becker) in the course of these investigations. I also read Virginia McConnell Simmons Colorado Central article about the Utes and am now reading parts of her exhaustive book on the subject. By all accounts Chipeta was a remarkable woman. Ouray could not have done his peacemaking work without her. Now we need to correct the misnaming of her mountain.

Perhaps Vino Salida, whose new building faces the Mountain, could develop a wine to promote the effort. They could call it Cold Shoulder. It would have to be a white wine. When the mountain is properly named a nice full-bodied red called, perhaps, Chipeta Rising could be created.

Some want to couch the issue in terms of women’s rights. There is certainly an argument for that. But a Lakota woman said. "It’s our turn now – Indian women. Their war is over. If honor mattered they would have won . . .but they were defeated. You took their spirits and left them with shame. But no one paid any attention to us women. We kept things alive in our hearts and our hands. . . .Our men may be defeated, but our women’s hearts are strong. The Indian family has been like a circle, and the woman has been at the center. White families have been like lines, with men standing in front. That’s why white women haven’t been able to understand us. They talk about sisterhood and liberation, but their struggle is not our struggle. We don’t need to get free. We need to free our men. . . until they are free in their hearts again, none of us Indians will be free.”

There are people who would like to have the high point on the Chipeta massif named after a white person. At first I rebelled at this, but later my cynical self thought that might be appropriate given our history with the Indians. A mountain peak that is supposed to be named for an important Indian and instead a subpar secondary shoulder bears her name – like so many broken promises concerning land for the Indians. A white man’s name would come between parents and child similar to what happened in so many boarding schools that tried to “civilize” the Native American young. The naming of the mountain for a white person might just be more symbolic of historical events involving our mistreatment of the Indians.

by Wayne Iverson