Devils Tower may get a second name

  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 McKinley.

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 Names.

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).

"At the root of both issues is mutual respect," says Liggett.

* Jared Farmer

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