State board defers to federal officials, tribes for new name of North Routt mountain

Local ranchers pitched the name Petite Teton

The small peak known as Squaw Mountain just south of the Wyoming boarder is on a list to be renamed.
U.S. Geological Survey/Screenshot

A state advisory board has declined to recommend a new name for a mountain in North Routt County, instead opting to defer to suggestions from federal officials or tribal nations.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board reviewed potential names for 28 features that use the term “squaw,” which U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland declared derogatory in November.

The Routt County mountain is far north of Steamboat Springs on the edge of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and private ranches. The board asked for comment on potential names last month, and the mountain in the Little Snake River Valley near the Wyoming border received 11 different suggestions.

One suggestion, Petite Teton, came from Patrick and Sharon O’Toole, who’s Ladder Ranch is just north of the mountain.

“As you look south, it is the dominant feature from our ranch,” Patrick O’Toole said. “It’s the first thing that we see every day, the last think we see every evening and we think that this is a name that represents a lot of both the historical and geographical aspects.”

Patrick O’Toole said the name is inspired by Grand Teton in northern Wyoming, which is part of the Snake River Valley. Because the mountain in Routt County is part of the Little Snake River Valley, he thought calling it “Petite Teton” would be a nice parallel.

Patrick O’Toole’s family has had a ranch in the area since the 1880s. Before they arrived, he said, multiple Native American tribes used the Little Snake River Valley as a hunting ground. The name would also be a tribute to the Teton Sioux or Lakota, he said, though they were primarily in North and South Dakota.

But Kim Olson, a game warden based in Baggs, Wyoming, commented to the board that she felt the name “Petite Teton” would be offensive to women. She instead suggested the board look to a wildflower or animal that is prolific in the area for a potential name. She suggested Mule Deer Mountain or Lupine Mountain.

Petite Teton, which is French, translates to English as “small nipple.” Sharon O’Toole noted the name did have an element of humor to it, but members on the board felt they needed to find a name that wouldn’t be an issue for anyone.

“I just think that we should err on the side of caution when we’re naming something to try to avoid, to the extent possible, renaming it to something that’s offensive to others,” said Karen Ann Berry, director of the Colorado Geological Survey and a member of the board.

In general, the board has avoided names connected to any one person, as further revelations about that individual could lead to the feature being renamed again. The exception was with a creek in Chaffee County, which they recommended be named Silas Soule Creek after a Union Army captain who refused to take part in the Sand Creek Massacre.

Another suggestion for the name comes from owners of land on the east side of the mountain. J.P. Ely suggested Ely Mountain, St. Louis Mountain or Hideout Mountain as potential names. The latter suggestion references a battle in 1841 between white trappers and Native Americans in the area when the mountain served as a hideout for women and children.

Other suggestions included Cantling Butte, Tahoe Mountain and Moose Head. A comment from Andrew Miller suggested that the mountain shouldn’t have a name at all because it’s a “little known and rarely visited geographical feature.”

“Just remove the name and leave it unnamed,” Miller’s comment reads.

But none of these suggestions stood out to the board, which is hustling to submit recommendations to a federal task force, which will also make recommendations. With every name approved, the board members said they would defer their recommendation to any input from tribal nations. The board didn’t receive any comments about Routt County’s mountain from tribes.

“None of those (name suggestions) are enough for me to name it that,” said Colorado Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Democrat from Adams County who serves on the board. “I propose this is another one where we leave it up to the (federal naming board) or defer to any proposals from tribes.”

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