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.
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).
“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.
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.”