Mount Doane, a pyramid-shaped 10,649-foot peak in eastern Yellowstone National Park, is officially renamed First Peoples Mountain. 

The rechristening, which the U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ Domestic Names Committee unanimously approved Thursday, marks the end of a yearslong effort led by tribes to strip Doane’s name from the landmark.

“At last!” Global Indigenous Council President Tom Rodgers told WyoFile in a statement. “This is a momentous day for all Tribal peoples, and particularly for the Piikani, who were the victims of Doane’s barbarity.”

The name Mount Doane has marked the summit on U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps since 1885, according to USBGN, and was first applied by USGS expedition leader Ferdinand V. Hayden to commemorate Gustavus Cheyney Doane.

Doane, a Civil War veteran, served as the military escort leader of the 1870 “Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition” through Yellowstone. He made several unsuccessful bids to become superintendent of the park once it was established in 1872. Critics have widely decried Doane for his involvement in the Piegan Massacre (also known as the Marias Massacre) near modern-day Bozeman, Montana, which laid siege to a non-hostile Piegan band that had been promised protection by the local U.S. Military. Attackers killed as many as 217 Piegan, mostly women and children, according to a USBGN report on the landmark’s name-change proposal. Doane later boasted about his participation in the massacre. 

First Peoples Mountain, the sunlit peak center-left, rises above Yellowstone Lake along with Mount Langford, in the shadow behind, and Mount Stevenson. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has called Doane “the dictionary-definition of a war criminal.” His dishonorable history led a coalition of tribes to call for the name change, an effort that stretches back at least eight years. 

Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2022 with an emphasis on elevating Indigenous voices in conversations around management and conservation in the park and its surrounding ecosystems. Indigenous people hunted, gathered and used thermal waters in the region for many centuries before it was designated a park. 

The park conducted outreach to its 27 associated tribes over the past several months about the proposal and received no opposition to the change nor concerns, according to a park service press release. This may not be the end of name-scrubbing in the park.

“Yellowstone may consider changes to other derogatory or inappropriate names in the future,” the release said. 

Removing Doane and Hayden

The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, which represents tribes in Montana and Wyoming, declared its desire for authorities to change the name of Mount Doane — along with Hayden Valley — in a 2014 resolution. (The Hayden name change is under review).

Lt GC Doane of the 1870 Washburn/Langford/Doane expedition; Photographer unknown; No date

“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 coalition said. Tribes accuse Hayden of advocating for genocide of Indigenous people. 

That began a long effort to scrub the names from the features and replace them. This included tribal actions, such as a name change declaration authored by Piikani (or Piegan Blackfoot) leaders and delivered to park officials in 2017. The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association formally petitioned for the name change the same year. The GPTCA comprises 16 sovereign Indian nations, all of which have treaty rights and/or ancestral connections to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“Yellowstone was a homeland, a sacred cultural landscape to 26 tribes, before it was a National Park,” the coalition’s letter to the naming board read. “For healing, reconciliation, and a new era of education and cross-cultural cooperation, Mount Doane should be changed to First People’s Mountain.”

The Wyoming Board of Geographic Names approved the name change in the spring of 2019. Several individual tribes, including the Northern Cheyenne, Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, also backed the proposal.

First Peoples Mountain, formerly Mount Doane, is shown in this archival photo from 1977. (National Park Service/J. Schmidt/Wikipedia) 1977

The National Park Service gave its endorsement to the measure this spring, putting the decision on the docket of the federal board. 

Members of the USBGN’s Domestic Naming Committee unanimously supported the change Thursday morning, 15-0, with little discussion. 

“I know this was a long one in coming,” committee Chair Susan Lyon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said following the vote. “I’m really impressed with everything everybody’s done to support this change all along the line, and our tribes and communities.”

The decision makes the change immediately official for federal use, according to Jennifer Runyon, a research staffer for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The change will be reflected in the USGS Geographic Names Information System, and the agency will notify all parties of the decision. USGS topographic maps and other federal maps, including the YNP brochure, will be updated during the normal revision cycle, she said.   

Global Indigenous Council President Rodgers said it’s a victory.

“As a Blackfeet, I say to my Blackfoot Confederacy brothers and sisters, we did it,” he told WyoFile. “The name of a war criminal, Doane, is gone. We look forward to the name of the white supremacist, Hayden, following.”

In the same meeting, the board shot down a proposal to name an unnamed promontory on private land near Cody “Mount Jackson Pollock,” pounding the final nail into the coffin of that effort. 

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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  1. les trois tétons is also well overdue for a triple mastectomié —- s’il vous plaît

  2. First of all, punishing someone long dead for whatever he might have done over 100 years ago in a very different world is about as dumb as it get. Plus anyone actually involved in any fights in the 1800s is long gone. Second, NO one is all good or all bad, nor were they then on either side. Lt. Doane contributed a great deal to our history and knowledge of Yellowstone as well as other palaces in the west. He was a military man and did his duty. Everyone who has fought in the military has had to do some awful things.

      1. Instead of defending your original comment when it was called into question, you can only agree with the 2nd most ignorant comment on the story.

        Why is it that it is only white repubs that get offended over name changes such as these? And again, how does the name change affect you?

    1. Pure BS. He was proud of slaughtering peaceful Indians who were under US protection. His name should never be brought up in veteran circles. As a veteran myself, I know that that raid was not a military operation at all because the Natives had secured Army protection. You implying that it was is a disservice to the US and the sate of Wyoming.

  3. Yes very good, I have a time with folks trying to change history, this is a good Oman for the US of A, Pat your self on the back, Thanl You for staying with it.

  4. My ossified board of Park County Commissioners in Cody have a perfect score in recent years stridently opposing all the renamings of landmarks that are derogatory to Natives. There have been several in Park County , including this latest Mt. Doane. The commish obstinately adhere to the Anglo names given to the landmarks in the late 19th century , displaying their general distaste of the federal government when an opportunity presents itself . Never mind many landmarks were re-named by white settlers overriding perfectly good much more colorful Native American names. We ended up with mountains rebranded for bureaucrats who never laid eyes on the West to curry political favor in Washington D.C. Or in the case of Doane and a few other dubious landforms were cavalierly named for depraved individuals not from here. The article author did not mention that the Park County Commissioners have been loud if ineffective detractors of the renamings hereabouts. ( Recalling the tempest in a teapot over their own County Road 6FU a few years ago, the only time the commish undertook a proactive name change. In all other cases they have been reactive and even hostile towards renaming derogatory landmarks )

    The work is not yet done for both the State and the Federal renaming boards. Witness this: inside a roughly 12 x 18 mile rectangle centered about 25 miles northwest of Cody is a virtual mausoleum of misnamed landmarks. Somehow, not less than NINE features named Dead Indian this, or Dead Indian that , can be viewed from the scenic overlook on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway that looks out over Sunlight Basin and Crandall. The vista point is set atop Dead Indian Pass. It’s alongside the former Dead Indian Road up and over Dead Indian Hill. Below the vista you come to Dead Indian creek, Dead Indian campground, and the Dead Indian trailhead. Below the road a couple miles is Dead Indian falls. Above the Chief Joe road you come to Dead Indian Meadows, and eventually the apex of Dead Indian Peak . Some even include Dead Indian Gulch and Dead Indian Mesa in the litany.

    All of these were purportedly named for a Native warrior killed by the US Army pursuing Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce refugees in 1877 near the overlook , or perhaps the Bannock warrior killed by soldiers commanded by Gen. Nelson Miles in that same area the following year. Either way , a single deceased nameless Native American somehow ended up with a very large amount of Absaroka Range geologic real estate named after him , somewhat derogatorily don’tcha think?

    I can guarantee one and all that those Dead Indian landmark names will be brought to the attention of the nation’s eminent fullblood Native American civil servant, Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Interior , whose cabinet department includes the US Geologic Survey that encapsulates the Board of Geographic Names. Haaland has already decreed by fiat from the top down that derogatory landmarks get taken care of. We never knew who the Squ_w was in real life back in frontier days.

    My rockheaded county commissioners will have not one but 9 Dead Indians to reckon with and wail against . Time to think up some replacement nomenclature, I would hint…

  5. Talk about dumb. Political correctness run rampant. “First People’s Mountain”? That’s just silly. But what else should we expect from the Park Circus.

    1. Curious how this affects you?

      This Doane cat doesn’t really sound like someone that should be honored with a prominent peak.

    2. Adam, why do you say it is dumb? You are likely not aware of the Marias Massacre, that Lt. Doane helped lead. It was something on the order of 90 women, 20 old men and 50 children who were burned, shot and axed to death. Many of them were sick with small pox that the Gold Rush had brought to them, and the young warriors were all out hunting to bring back food while they slept. And it was the wrong tribe to boot. The political correctness was naming it after one of the murderers, following an Army coverup of this slaughter that was a national scandal. Try this, https://web.archive.org/web/20180707092437/https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/native-history-major-attacks-wrong-indian-village-doesn-t-care-VtC8JZWhwUeYaSkuhhaccw/

  6. Good. Hope some day Fremont gets purged for leading the slaughter of hundreds of Wintuan in the Sacramento River massacre.