Native Americans Want Monument Name Change; Don’t Like ‘Devils’

CHENEY: ‘The name Devils Tower is over a century old and represents one of the most well-known sites in the nation…’

Devils Tower photo

Devils Tower/Photo by dconvertini (CC)

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Native American tribes submitted a proposal to change the name of a landmark in Wyoming from “Devils Tower” to “Bear Lodge.”

The Lakota Nation and the Oglala Sioux Tribe asked the Secretary of the Interior to change the name in 2014, the National Park Service reported.

The tribes view the landmark as sacred and believe the word “Devils” denigrates its holy significance.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, filed H.R. 401 to protect the landmark’s name as Devils Tower.

“Wyoming’s Devils Tower is one of our state’s most beautiful and sacred geological features,” she said, according to a press release. “The name Devils Tower is over a century old and represents one of the most well-known sites in the nation. In addition to its historic importance in our state, Devils Tower attracts crucial tourism and revenue to our communities.”

The bill cleared the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

The landmark had the name Bears Lodge until the the early 20th century, when Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge wrote that the Indians called the landmark “The Bad God’s Tower.”

From this description, the name Devils Tower arose.

The butte stands 865 feet tall and sticks out in the surrounding terrain of barren hills.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Congress, or the president can change the title of the geologic feature.

Reuters reported Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Great Sioux Nation, said the name implies that Native Americans, who worshipped at the landmark, prayed to the devil.

While Native Americans have a religious claim to the name, Wyoming state officials have a vested financial interest in the name.

“We’ve worked very hard to make sure some of the state’s assets are easily recognizable to both domestic and international audiences,” said Chris Mickey, spokesman for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, according to Reuters.

Local residents don’t have a problem with the name, either.

“The truth is, the vast majority of all of the public worldwide recognize it as a landmark, as Devils Tower; They don’t see it as an evil thing, as a bad thing,” local rancher Ogden Driskill said, according to the Casper Star Tribune.

The landmark attracts about half a million visitors per year. They drive revenue for the state.

But nearly 30 Native Americans still hold religious services at the monument.

Matt Mead photo

Matt Mead/Photo by USFWS Mountain Prairie (CC)

Governor Matt Mead opposes the name change.

“Devils Tower is one of the most recognized names in the National Park Service inventory,” he said.

Looking Horse said it’s a battle between money and religion.

“To us, it is a very sacred place. A sacred site that’s like a church, a place of worship,” he said. “It’s all about money, and that’s what we are up against in the world today when everything is based on money.”