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Around the Campfire: A debate on famous Yellowstone peak being renamed

The National Park Service recently announced that Yellowstone’s Mount Doane has been renamed. From now on, this Wyoming peak will be known as First Peoples Mountain. This renaming was the topic of a recent campfire conversation. As you might imagine, the discussion was lengthy and lively.

The backstory

The former Mount Doane, located in the southwestern part of Yellowstone National Park, was originally named for a U.S. Army officer. Lieutenant Gustavus Doane helped lead a horrific massacre of more than 150 Native Americans in 1870.

A local fur trader’s alleged murder triggered the brutal killing of a band of Piegan Blackfeet elders, women, and children, already stricken with smallpox. Lt. Doane not only helped lead in the destruction, but he continued to brag about the so-called “Marias Massacre” throughout his lifetime.

Months later, in 1870, Lt. Doane led an important exploration expedition through the Yellowstone area. In 1872, Yellowstone became the very first U.S. National Park. It’s assumed that Doane’s help on the expedition caused his name to be given to the 10,551-foot peak.

The Mount Doane renaming process

The National Park Service reported that they consulted with numerous Native American tribes about the renaming—27 tribes participated in all. Everyone involved agreed that renaming the peak First Peoples Mountain was an appropriate way to honor the massacre victims.

Our campfire discussion

Everyone around the campfire agreed that the Marias Massacre was brutal and egregious. However, not everyone agreed that the historic and familiar name Mount Doane should get a new, less-offensive moniker.

“If we destroy our history, we can’t learn from it,” one camper noted.

“Who learns anything from the name First Peoples Mountain? And how long will it take for people to automatically refer to the peak by its new name?” someone else commented.

“’First Peoples’ has more meaning to me than Doane,” Sara countered. “And eventually, the new name will become familiar.”

“How does the murdered fur trapper’s family feel about this?” Mark questioned tongue-in-cheek. “If their descendants are still living, do their feelings matter?” A groan went up from the crowd. Some campers seemed disgusted at Mark’s attempt at humor.

I didn’t think the fur trader’s death demanded the annihilation of so many native people. Surely not every massacred man, woman, and child played a role in the unfortunate man’s death. Innocent people were slaughtered.

Learn from history, including Mount Doane

One outspoken camper voiced his frustration: “I’m tired of people being (air quotes) offended. Our nation’s history is messy, sometimes brutal. But it happened. Let’s learn from it and let it go.”

“Are today’s Native Americans aware of the Marias Massacre?” someone else wondered. “I’m sure that I don’t know half of the history that happened where I live. My ignorance means I’m not offended, I guess.”

Marty voiced his opinion: “Doane seems like a hothead. A power-hungry jerk. I’m happy the peak’s been renamed.”

The conversation continued but we didn’t arrive at a consensus. At least, no agreements were reached before my husband and I left the campfire around midnight.

The renaming of Mount Doane is a hot topic. If you’d like to add to the discussion respectfully and thoughtfully, please do so in the comments. *Editor’s note: We have the right to delete any comments that are disrespectful in any way. 

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SLR
11 days ago

I do not believe in glorifying the memory of bad actors. We stole this continent from its original residents and we should not celebrate the monsters who played key roles in their genocide and suffering. We need to rise above our nation’s brutal, cruel and selfish history. I support renaming landmarks in the honor of our native peoples.

tom
12 days ago

Put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

Tim
12 days ago

Wow, all the people here who have a problem over this. Doane was a mass murderer.
I guess we should name a street after Ted Bundy in his hometown to commemorate him for his part of history in this country.

Jim Prideaux
13 days ago

Remove the name Doane? Sure, bad actor. Mountains, rivers, lakes, roads, towns etc should be named for people who gave positive contributions. And its not too late to correct a mistake.
First Peoples Mountain? Please no. Too generic. Too much like First Peoples Bank!
Name it for someone who made a positive contribution in the area.

MattD
12 days ago
Reply to  Jim Prideaux

hold on here…back then, the people DID THINK he made a positive contribution in the area

bwodom
11 days ago
Reply to  Jim Prideaux

Often the skeletons come out of the closet many years later. There are few of us who have not had some good and some not-so-good things in our past. Sad that the negative always outweighs the positive, even if the scale is balanced. That being said…

I agree that First People’s Mountain is too generic, How about the unofficial and already familiar name Marias Massacre (or Piegan Massacre which is right on the money)? That is the kind of name that makes the curious want to know more.

Personally, I think we should stop naming ANY public places/buildings/etc. after human beings. Few will be recognizable to future generations and way too many will have their family history exploited for someone’s political agenda.

It’s getting too expensive — and eventually confusing — to keep changing names. Surely there are better things we can do with our time…like cleaning up the environment!

Tom
10 days ago
Reply to  bwodom

Agree, most us have a skeleton or two, maybe we should just name the by number the way NY does schools. That is until someone finds out the person who started the number system has a skeleton. We should be honoring those how lead the massacre, maybe label it often the massacre as suggested.

Last edited 10 days ago by Tom
Tom
10 days ago
Reply to  bwodom

“Personally, I think we should stop naming ANY public places/buildings/etc. after human beings. “

I wholeheartedly agree.

TIM MCRAE
13 days ago

Dude! I agree that the new name is much better for various reasons but man, Joe, or whatever your real name is, you gotta go grind your axe somewhere else.

Take a look at your words. You’re the only intolerance in this discussion.

Darlene
13 days ago

Well, old Gustavus does not sound like a very pleasant individual.  Boasting about leading a massacre of 173 “women, elderly Tribal members and children suffering from smallpox” does not make him sound like a man of character. It also appears he tried to gain a public position to leverage his private enterprise.  

Not a man worthy of having a National Park peak named for him. I haven’t heard anyone suggesting we rename a peak “Mt. William Calley”.

I live in the Phoenix area and I was really against the renaming of Squaw Peak. But it has been years now and it’s actually an honor to have a mountain named after Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. military, and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War.

Do you remember what Mount Denali’s former name was?

Tom
13 days ago

If we continue with the way this country is going, then I think it’s time to change the name of any school, building or airport that was named after JFK. He was constantly womanizing and committing adultery. Clearly, he didn’t believe in the vow he made to his wife or God.

Darlene
13 days ago
Reply to  Tom

Dear Tom, How does the former president have anything to do with the renaming of a peak in Yellowstone Park?

Tom
13 days ago
Reply to  Darlene

If you read my post, you will see that the renaming of places due to the terrible things a person does, JFK was not a saint.

KellyR
13 days ago
Reply to  Tom

Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy, then it eventually went back to Cape Canaveral. Please don’t name a building, road, etc. after me, as one day it will come to be in disrepair and still with my name on it? No thanks.

Mary
9 days ago
Reply to  Tom

And how does his marital infidelity with consenting adults compare to a man who slaughtered sick and old natives? That’s really reaching, my friend.

MattD
13 days ago

“Are today’s Native Americans aware of the Marias Massacre?” was a great question in the conversation. If there are living relatives of those massacred, they are the ones who should have the say on whether or not the mountain should be renamed. In other words, who is being directly injured by the name of this mountain? If not, history is history, period. Someone trying to change a name thinking it can undo a wrong that happened 150 years ago is on some kind of ego trippin’ sanctimonius crusade. Just my opinion.

Richard
13 days ago

Many of those who want to “Apologize” all over the place forget, or were never taught, that the Native Americans were by and large warring, murderous tribes that raided and stole for everything that they couldn’t hunt. They also fought over where they could hunt. Some tribes were eradicated by other tribes. They routinely took slaves. This had gone on for millennium.
European settlers came into this arena and had to fight back against such a culture. Granted, some of the age took “An eye for an eye” to extremes, but what they faced was extreme. Had there been more natives than settlers, the Natives would have wiped the continent clean of Europeans.
The general level of intelligence, and cultural mindsets were entirely different 2-300 years ago. Judging them by today’s standards is not only unfair but also of a lesser intelligence.

Bill Forbes
12 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Well, there were more natives than there were settlers for a long time. And Europeans not only had been warring, murderous tribes (then got organized into warring, murderous countries with well organized and well armed military forces) but they brought their wars with them and persuaded the natives to join in when it was to the Europeans benefit. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.

Mary
9 days ago
Reply to  Richard

You do know that we marched in and stole their land, right? 🙄

Drew
13 days ago

I’ll bet those 27 tribes were well informed of the history before participating. The person who wore the Viet Nam cap has an interesting and sad comment on the state of history teaching by the schools today. In my respectful judgement- renaming things these days is just stupid-sorry.

Spike
13 days ago

A topic hotter than the campfire!

I am generally not a believer in renaming things or tearing down statues.

Jean Painter brings up Lee. If you haven’t, read his full history. He was a man of intelligence and honor that, prior to the CW made significant contributions to the “United States.” As a “man of his time” he simply could not fight against his native Virginia. Do we throw out his significant contributions? I don’t believe we should.

OTOH, the renaming of Harney Peak in the Black Hills is OK by me. This was/is a very sacred place to natives…treatied forever to them and frankly taken by a one-sided act of Congress. It is thought by many that the Lakota name for that peak was Hinhan Kaga or The Making of Owls. It was renamed for Harney, a general referred to by some as Harney the Baby Killer for his roll in massacres. Renaming it back to honor a Native leader isn’t a stretch to me. After all, history of Native Americans is also a huge part of US history.

JAMES
13 days ago

He who does not remember history is doomed to repeat it.

MattD
13 days ago
Reply to  JAMES

I’ve never liked that quote by Santayana…What if the history happens to have been beneficial to the advancement of humankind? Not all history is bad, so doomed is incorrect terminology.

Ron T.
13 days ago

Too many people think history is just an unchanging collection of facts. It is not. Like science, history is constantly changing as new information comes to light. The who, what, where and when don’t generally change, but the why and how often do. That leads to new investigations of the outcomes and consequences. So does changing the name of a geographical location or a building erase it’s history? Of course not. It just adds more to it’s story.

In early adulthood my lack of knowledge about my father’s history led to a change in my life’s trajectory. I followed that path to a BA in American History (Univ. of MO ’79), an MFA in Museum Science (TTU ’88), and a career in museum work that continues as a volunteer in my retirement. As an RV Traveler, I don’t think I’ll ever visit a place that doesn’t have an interesting history.

Joe Goomba
13 days ago

I knew this story would bring out the white privilege racists and sure enough, here they are. Screaming about “woke”, defending wrongs of the past.

Renaming things because they were named after some racist or some murderer of native americans is the right thing to do. We shouldn’t honor such people, and you shouldn’t want to.

B N S
13 days ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Your Narrative, Joe. Amazing! This is all I have to say.. : (

Tim
12 days ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Exactly. It’s why Germany doesn’t name things after Hitler and his ilk.

Stephanie
13 days ago

It would be interesting to know what the Native Americans in the Yellowstone area named the mountain prior to 1870 and perhaps revert to that original name.

Ed D.
13 days ago

Wokeness has totally gotten out of hand in this country. History, is History. You can rename things but that will never change what happened in the past. An intelligent community teaches History. Both the good and the bad! By learning about the things that transpired in the past, we are able to see the many mistakes that were made and hopefully, not repeat them. By sweeping them under the rug, we leave it open to commit the same mistakes as we made in the past, not realizing their consequences. I sincerely hope that this country wakes up and sees what is being done to our youth in the very institutions that are supposed to be making them smarter!

Joe Goomba
13 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Too bad many communities are blocking the teaching of real history, not just whitewashed history.

Ed D.
13 days ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Agreed Joe. It is the few, that are dictating to the masses, what will, or won’t, be taught in the Classroom! It is my sincere hope that this year the trend, to oust those that are leading our youth in the wrong direction, continues. It has already begun to happen in many cities. Parents are getting involved and running for School Boards against those that are teaching gender studies, instead of History! It is working!

Ron Yanuszewski
12 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Though I agree with your over all point, It’s comical that you think we’ve ever taught real history, On just about any topic.

Ed D.
11 days ago

When I was in school we learned History. In Oregon they don’t even have to pass Math to get a degree.

Scott
10 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

2 plus potato equal 7

Scott
10 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Thank you Ed, feel good actions of the offended whitewash the truth. People should be both proud and offended by the actions that shaped this nation. Don’t hide the true history, learn from it. If you speak to the beneficiaries of the diluted history that has been taught to the last few generations, most are clueless about what really happened in our countries past. A recent trip to the beautiful state of S Carolina with a visit to a restored plantation demonstrated this point perfectly…one of the people was overheard to say that the slaves should have just left the plantation if they did not like the conditions! Fortunately, the preservation group who has been responsible for the restoration of the property was not afraid to portray the clearer picture of life on the plantation with it’s contrast of luxery and misery. Continue to be that lone voice in wilderness about the full history of our beautiful and diverse country.

Ed D.
10 days ago
Reply to  Scott

Thank you Scott. History is the greatest teacher! Too bad the school system doesn’t get it!

Lorie Johnson
13 days ago

In my opinion, yes we need to remember or learn the history, but honestly I don’t think many people look up why something is named what it is named. It is complicated in what looks like atrocities today was “normal” at the time. We have numerous methods of preserving and learning about history without celebrating people that did bad things. Our naming conventions also overly honor white men, because they were in power, recording history and making the decisions. The contributions of BIPOC and women largely ignored.

Jean Painter
13 days ago

I spent my high school years at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA about 60 years ago. A few years ago we were traveling through that area and I noticed that a familiar highway that I knew as “Lee Highway” had been renamed.

I wondered if my high school alma mater had suffered the same fate. Sure enough, Google informed me that it had been renamed “John R Lewis” high school.

Renaming companies (like Aunt Jemina), public establishments (schools, buildings, mountains), etc. and removing statues doesn’t change history. History serves a purpose, we should learn from it . . . not try to erase it.

Bob p
13 days ago
Reply to  Jean Painter

I really don’t understand why these events and names offend the left, they’ve quit teaching history and geography in schools so why worry about it. When I was driving a school bus many times I wore my Vietnam Veterans hat soon many kids on the bus were asking me about Vietnam and the war. I asked if they weren’t learning about our history in school, the answer, no we hear about it on line. The school systems are to busy teaching things like you may not be a boy or girl to bother with history. Unless things change soon this country will not have a history to learn from.

Bigheart
13 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

History is still being taught and you’re seriously out of touch if you think geography isn’t a subject anymore. I do not need to see a statue of Hitler to learn about the history surrounding WWII and the Nazi party. I do not need to see a statue of Andrew Jackson to properly learn about the Trail of Tears.

Statues, naming things after people, these are all done to HONOR those people. Statues and names do not teach history. They show respect. Books teach history, teachers teach history. You are a fool if you believe a small placard on a statue is a proper way to learn history. College students don’t read placards at the zoo when they want to learn biology.

Ed D.
10 days ago
Reply to  Bigheart

College students don’t even need to know math to get a degree in Oregon. So you think that History is being taught? That’s a good laugh! Also, Bob never said a placard on a statue was teaching history!

Ron Yanuszewski
12 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

We’re just starting to teach history, It certainly wasn’t taught when you, or I, was in school. If you haven’t figured that out yet, There’s a whole new world for you to discover.

Bigheart
13 days ago
Reply to  Jean Painter

I wasn’t aware removing statues and renaming things magically erases history books and school subjects. I think you may have a learning disability if you HAVE to see a statue to learn history.

Ed D.
10 days ago
Reply to  Bigheart

You are the one with the learning disability. History is most certainly not taught in our institutions of higher learning. White privilege, same gender relationships and teaching that a boy can be a girl and a girl can be a boy, is what they are drilling into our children’s heads these days. CRT is one more wasted subject that they are attempting to brainwash todays youth with. We live in Florida and we fortunately, have a great Governor that is putting an end to these teachings.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
13 days ago
Reply to  Jean Painter

Hi! Jean- from Mitzi Class of 1968! Actually one of my classmates looked up a Robert Lee who served in the Spanish American war (buffalo soldier) and was awarded for boat rescue of troops stranded by enemy fire on Cuban beaches. I would’ve preferred Lee High to shift to being named after him, but instead the students currently attending were consulted (never would’ve happened in 1968) and they chose John Lewis. I’m happy to abide by the young ones choice. BTW Bob p my last high school American History class ended with the start of WW2, about 25 years prior to my high school entrance.

Last edited 13 days ago by Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
Ed D.
10 days ago
Reply to  Jean Painter

Jean, very well put! I agree with you 100%. History will always be the greatest teacher. Without it, we will just repeat the mistakes of the past! Have a great week!

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