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.”