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 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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