Edwards-area creek will be renamed Colorow Creek after Ute leader | VailDaily.com

Edwards-area creek will be renamed Colorow Creek after Ute leader

‘It rolls off your tongue’ says one supporter

An elk on a hillside in the Edwards area, which will now be known as the Colorow Creek Valley after an April 10 decision by the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board to rename the creek.
Todd Winslow Pierce/Courtesy image

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board selected the name Colorow Creek by unanimous vote at its April 10 meeting after determining the existing name for the Edwards-area creek is offensive.

The motion was proposed by Rep. Adrienne Benavidez of Adams County.

“The name Squaw was offensive to indigenous people … that’s why I proposed Colorow,” Rep. Benavidez said following the decision.

Board Chair Tim Mauck noted that 35 comments and many suggestions had been submitted. Mauck pointed out that the suggestion of Fenno Creek was made by the Eagle County Historical Society, and the suggestion of Colorow Creek was made by the Sierra Club Headwaters Group.

Rep. Perry Will of New Castle said he had heard the suggestion for Stage Coach Creek suggested in Eagle County, as well.

“I tried to find out the actual name of the stage company that ran that and couldn’t find that,” Will said.

Longtime Eagle County resident Susie Kincade was in support of Colorow Creek, as its namesake Colorow, chief of the Ute Mountain Utes, often resided in the area.

“He’s one of the chiefs and leaders who kept trying, he kept trying to work with the white man, and he kept trying his best to keep his people here in their homelands,” Kincade said. “I think it’s fantastic to weave some of the pre-Anglo history back into the culture through place names.”

Kincade said Colorow Creek has a nice ring to it, as well.

“It rolls off your tongue, just like the creek rolling down the mountain,” she said.

“I think it’s important for our younger generations to see words like Wapiti and Colorow and Nuchu and begin to understand that there’s a deeper history than just the Anglo history,” Kincade added.

Local history

Kathy Heicher with the Eagle County Historical Society said there are a number of references to encounters with Chief Colorow in the Eagle Valley in the historical society’s archives.

“We have a history book written by local high school students in 1939 that makes the claim that the Ute Chief Colorow used a trail along Squaw Creek to traverse the county,” Heicher said.

The Ute Indians lived in the Eagle County area of today for thousands of years before being forced onto reservations in the 1880s. Settler-Ute conflict reached a boiling point in September 1879 when U.S. Indian agent Nathan Meeker was killed following tensions in the area known today as Meeker, Colorado.

A town of Red Cliff account says word of the incident reached Red Cliff where settlers hurriedly constructed a small fort of stone near the junction of Turkey Creek and the Eagle River.

“The residents stayed near the fort on alert for several days. When no Utes appeared, life returned to normal“ for the settlers, according to the Red Cliff account.

Other efforts

But life never returned to normal for the Utes following the Meeker incident.

“After the loss of their land, there followed decades more of cultural decimation,” writes Bill Betz, former chair of the Eagle-Summit Wilderness Alliance, a local wilderness advocacy group. “Finally, in the 1930s, the so-called ‘Indian New Deal’ began to provide meaningful support for Indian culture, health care, agriculture and employment. Much still remains to be done.”

Betz points to the increasingly popular practice of land acknowledgments before meetings, but suggests words can “ring hollow to some people” and actions could count for more, citing efforts underway to engage in shared management of public lands in the U.S., including the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which helped create the original boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

And in Colorado, as Betz points out, there is also an effort underway that could result in the return of land to the Utes.

“Recently, Carrie Besnette Hauser, president of Colorado Mountain College, described a project that CMC is undertaking in consultation with the Utes, which will examine the disposition of land that CMC owns in Montezuma County, near Ute reservations,” Betz writes. “Deeding that land back to the Utes is on the table.”

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