To Plains Indians, the name Devils Tower dishonors a sacred place. But to local Wyoming residents, the name stands for community identity and tourist dollars. When Devils Tower National Monument Superintendent Deborah Liggett revived the idea of renaming the feature, people spoke out in opposition. At an Aug. 15 meeting, says Liggett, "I was labeled everything from a left-wing kook to a Nazi."
"(Park officials) don't treat
us with the same courtesy and forthrightness that they treat the
Indian tribes," Jesse Driskill, a seventh-generation resident, told
the Casper Star-Tribune.
Trying to satisfy both
groups of people, the Park Service has suggested retaining the
administrative name of Devils Tower National Monument while
changing the geographic name on maps. Liggett sees a precedent for
dual names in Alaska, where Denali National Park encompasses Mount
The name Devils Tower dates to 1875.
Earlier maps refer to Bear Lodge, a translation of one of the
various Indian names for the site. The tower is part of the sacred
geography of more than 20 tribes, and it's up to them, says
Superintendent Liggett, to agree on an alternative name. At that
point, the Park Service will conduct hearings and eventually submit
a proposal to the U.S. Board on Geographic
Naming is only the latest source of
friction. Earlier this summer, some Wyoming guides won a
preliminary injunction against the agency's ban on commercial
rock-climbing during the month of June, when many Native Americans
hold religious ceremonies at the tower. The Park Service still
supports a voluntary ban (HCN, 6/24/96).
root of both issues is mutual respect," says