Vail-area Squaw Creek renaming is happening, and the deadline is Monday to make suggestions

Supporters of renaming also hope people make suggestions for a potential Gore Range renaming

A bull elk pauses on a hillside in the area currently known as the Squaw Creek Valley in Eagle County. The creek will be renamed by the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board.

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board will be removing the term “Squaw” from geographic locations, deeming the term as derogatory.

Recommendations are currently being sought for consideration by the board, which requests all submissions be received by Monday.

To make a suggestion, visit the board’s online comment form or send comments to

There are 28 geographic features utilizing the term “Squaw” in Colorado, including Squaw Creek in Eagle County.

The Eagle County Historical Society Board of Directors will recommend the creek be renamed “Fenno Creek” after researching the creek’s history.

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“Emma Curney Fenno was a widow and the mother of eight children when she purchased a ranch on Squaw Creek in 1909,” wrote Kathy Heicher with the Eagle County Historical Society. “She and her husband had been raising her children in Leadville. She was surviving on his $12 per month Civil War pension, and also took in laundry and cooked for hire. Four of Emma’s sons, Louis, Henry, George, and Charles homestead adjacent parcels on Squaw Creek. They dug irrigation, grew hay, grain, potatoes, strawberries and head lettuce. They raised dairy cows, chickens, and hogs. They also did some dryland farming. When the commute to the school in Edwards proved too arduous for some younger Squaw Creek children (including Emma’s grandchildren), she donated the land for a Squaw Creek School. For 80 years, the name “Fenno” was synonymous with Squaw Creek. We feel it is a worthy new name, and a great way to honor local pioneers.”

Fenno Creek received the most votes among the board, but other names were suggested, as well.

Eagle County resident Susie Kincade, who has long wanted to see both Squaw Creek and the Gore Range renamed, said she prefers the name Colorow Creek, named after Chief Colorow, a Ute Indian chief who was known to pass through the Eagle River Valley.

“Personally, I like to see them replaced with indigenous names, or indigenous words,” Kincade said. “There were definitely some trespasses on our part, because of our culture’s manifest destiny belief, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t go back now and acknowledge and appreciate. Because the wisdom that some of those cultures had before us was a much more harmonious one, and a much more sustainable way of life, than what we’ve created here.”

Sun peaks through over the Gore Range in November in Vail. Proponents of renaming the Gore Range have suggested the Nuchu Range as an alternative.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

‘We could be talking about a lot of changes’

Local resident Buddy Doll, who is a descendant of 19th century Eagle County pioneers, says he’s concerned that the effort could get costly, especially if the Gore Range is changed.

“I get it, but it could get pretty expansive and expensive depending on how far you take it,” he said.

Kincade says now is the time to change the Gore Range, as well, and suggests those who write in with a suggestion for the Squaw name change voice their opinions on the Gore Range, as well.

“This movement is a wave of restoring integrity and justice to the native peoples who were here,” she said.

Doll said if Squaw and Gore are being discussed, “Buck” would be another example of a word which could also be interpreted as offensive alongside squaw.

“We called the young virile men young bucks, and the young women squaws,” he said.

Doll insists the terms were used out of respect, which is why the local landmarks received those names, but acknowledges that thinking has changed on that in recent decades.

The term “young buck” was most notably called out as derogatory by the New York Times following Ronald Reagan’s use of the term in the 1970s, when Reagan took objection to a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy steaks.

The 2014 book “Unspinning the Spin, The Women’s Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language” says the word “Buck” is a “profoundly derogatory term when used for an African American or American Indian.”

Doll said between squaw, buck, Gore and any other words deemed offensive, “We could be talking about a lot of changes on that map.”

For those reasons, Doll isn’t crazy about about changing names in Eagle County, but his frustration with the issue isn’t as much about the names themselves, he said — rather it’s the larger context and circumstances surrounding the name changes.

“On the Western Slope we have numerous water diversion projects and wildlife reintroduction efforts underway, which we didn’t approve of,” he said. “That’s what really bothers me. This naming issue is just another reminder that the people of the Western Slope have lost our say in the issues that affect us.”

A lot of that came with the recreation industry, Doll admits, which he himself supported.

“I love the recreation that was brought here,” he said, reminiscing on the days when he worked as a ski patroller. “I applauded Vail, I loved it.”

Forest Service maps like this one, which contain the derogatory word “Squaw,” will soon be renamed. The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board is currently taking suggestions for new names.
Courtesy image

Lord Gore, another wealthy tourist

In the case of Gore, it’s important to look at what the man really represents, Doll said, which is recreation. Gore was a wealthy tourist seeking outdoor recreation in Colorado.

“Hunting was the recreation staple of the time,” Doll said.

In that lies a perfect analogy for Vail — a word synonymous with the Gore Creek Valley — in its attempts to attract wealthy tourists seeking recreation a century and a half after Gore’s visit. Maybe it is the perfect analogy, but the problem with the name, as pointed out by both Doll and Kincade, is that Gore never actually visited the Gore Creek Valley during his legendary outdoor recreation expedition.

“While camped in Middle Park (Gore) learned the elk were numerous on the far side of a towering mountain range — the mighty ridge that today bears the name of the Gore Range,” journalist Forbes Parkhill wrote in his 1951 book “The Wildest of the West.” Parkhill used accounts from members of the hunting party, government reports, the records of the American Fur Company and the lone newspaper description of the expedition to source his story.

“Legend has it that (Gore) employed a tribe of 800 Indians to cut a road through the timber so his wagon train could cross the range and then remained only four days on the far side,” Parkhill wrote. “It is more likely that he left his wagons behind and packed across on horseback.”

Parkhill cited a government report claiming Gore killed “2,500 buffalo, 1,600 elk and deer, 125 bears, and more (pronghorn) than he troubled to count” during his 1854-1857 hunting tour in the American West.

While Parkhill called Gore a “Noble Roamer,” others weren’t as kind. Eight years later, using Parkhill among his sources, “Montana The Magazine of Western History” writer Clark C. Spence came up with a more memorable term for Gore, “A Celtic Nimrod in the Old West,” although Nimrod is itself a term which can be interpreted differently meaning idiot or, simply, hunter.

Spence and Parkhill generally agree that while Gore may not have been nice to the animals of the West, he appeared to have maintained fair relations with Native Americans for the most part.

The one major squabble which was documented occurred after Gore’s hunting party was robbed of horses.

“(Local Native Americans) resented the wanton slaughter of their game to satisfy the white man’s sporting appetite and were always alert for an opportunity to indulge in their favorite pastime of horse stealing,” Spence wrote, citing the Lieutenant James H. Bradley manuscript on file with the Historical Society of Montana.

Parkhill pointed out first an account of Gore giving gifts to local Native Americans and becoming enraged “when a white profiteer demanded blackmarket prices for six beefs,” he wrote. “From another cattlemen he bought an entire heard of fifty head and gave the forty-four unneeded animals to the (local Native Americans.)”

After a second raid of Gore’s hunting camp, a chase ensued, “which wounded one of the raiders, Big Plume, brother-in-law of Alexander Culbertson, long the chief agent of the American Fur Company on the Upper Missouri,” Spence wrote.

Culbertson “took a dim view of killing his Indian wife’s brother,” Parkhill wrote, seeing to the filing of a complaint “charging that Gore was causing unrest among the Indians by killing so much game.”

The complaint serves as documentation of the major complaint against Gore today, the fact that the hunting expedition was excessive in its slaughter of animals.

Nevertheless, as noted by Spence, “Gore seems to have maintained fair relations with the Indians and even carried on trade with them, much to the consternation of the Federal Indian Agent at Fort Union.”

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