Why Do Yellowstone National Park Landmarks Honor Murderers?

Yellowstone National Park is one of my favorite places on Earth, so I was horrified to learn that several of the place names within the park honor men who both killed indigenous people and advocated for their extermination.

Hayden Valley  is a broad valley that includes Yellowstone Lake, where I have often seen herds of bison grazing beside the Yellowstone River that runs through it. It’s also a great place to view waterfowl, grizzly bears and wolves.

But recently I discovered that it is named for Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, a surveyor who led an expedition into Yellowstone in 1871. He also advocated for the elimination of any Native Americans who refused to comply with the wishes of the U.S. government.

Hayden called for exterminating Native Americans “unless they are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits.”

I have climbed several peaks in Yellowstone Park, but Mount Doane is not one of them: It is remote, requiring intimate knowledge of the park’s backcountry — where meeting a grizzly bear is common, and the trails are non-existent near the peak.

Situated on the east shore of Yellowstone Lake, Mount Doane is a 10,500-foot peak, named for Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a U.S. cavalry captain who was part of the 1870 expedition into Yellowstone. During that journey, Doane led a massacre that killed at least 175 Blackfeet people. He bragged about this incident for the rest of his life.

My passion for Yellowstone National Park is not diminished by learning about these murdering people, but it’s imperative that these locations within the park be re-named.

Several groups of Native Americans are already working to get those names changed.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, an organization of the tribal chairmen from 16 Sioux tribes, has put in an application to change Hayden Valley to Buffalo Nations Valley — and to change Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain.

“We’re not against certain names,” said William Snell, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council. “But we’re not for names where individuals have been involved with genocide, where elders and children have been killed and there have been some traumatic events in our history that don’t meet standards of honor.”

Yet again we are reminded that the U.S. is founded on racism and bigotry.

And so the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association is pushing through an application to change Hayden Valley to Buffalo Nations Valley and to change Mount Doane to First Peoples Mountain.

They’re hoping to achieve success, just like the victory that happened in in 2016, when the board approved changing the name of South Dakota’s Harney Peak to Black Elk peak. William S. Harney led troops into an 1885 battle against the Brule Sioux and killed men, women and children. 

So far, the Yellowstone name change has met resistance, as both local county officials and the county commissioner have voted against it. But this will not stop Care2 supporters.

Take Action!

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has received numerous requests in relation to the word “squaw,” and has renamed everything from waterways to mountains and neighborhood streets.

Renaming these iconic landmarks could be their next crucial decision. We should not honor men who made it their business to massacre the Native Americans who lived the Yellowstone area long before it became a national park. 

If you agree, please sign my Care2 petition demanding that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names change the names of these iconic places to reflect their true origins.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo Credit: Yellowstone National Park/Flickr


Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

RONALD Walker7 months ago

I am sad to say. I did not know what those so-called people did. Changing the name is acknowledging what they did to our fellow American! A great nation as we are can fix many problems of the past and change the names is a good start. Many of the Names of our Native American Brothers and sisters had given is better than the names we have given.

Emma L
Past Member 7 months ago

thanks for posting

Jan S
Past Member 7 months ago

Thank you

Barbara V
Barbara V7 months ago

The names should be changed before Trump adds his to the list of murderers.

Janis K
Janis K7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Leo C
Leo C7 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Kathy G
Kathy G7 months ago

Thank you

Carole R
Carole R7 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Theresa W
Theresa Winder7 months ago

Native american were a warriors race, they fought amongst themselves just as much as rest of world. These tribes saw war a need like breathing. So when another race comes along with more power and tech, then they cry foul. When really being warriors they should accept there defeat.