Petition to Change Offensive Name of Sacred Native American Landmark

10 October 2023

Chief Arvol Looking Horse stands in front of Bear Lodge (Photo by Dan Cepeda)

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The Onaway Trust supports Native American communities in their mission to change the offensive name of a sacred landmark back to one which respectfully portrays the Indigenous history, culture and legends of the site.

‘Devils Tower’ is an unmistakeable geological feature in the landscape of Wyoming. However, for years it has been at the heart of a controversial debate which sees Native American communities petitioning the government to change its name to Bear Lodge, a name which they consider more historically accurate and culturally respectful.

The site was branded with the name ‘Devils Tower’ in 1906 due to a mistranslation of its Native American name to ‘Bad God’s Tower’. A clerical mishap which erased the apostrophe then compounded this error, leading to the name ‘Bad Gods Tower’, which was subsequently simplified to ‘Devils Tower’.

Understandably, the dozens of local tribes to whom this site is a place of worship find this name highly offensive and damaging, as it equates their sacred ceremonies with devil worship and helps to cement harmful stereotypes about these Indigenous cultures.

As a result, Native American citizens, led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, are campaigning to change the name of the park to Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark, a name which is known to have been used historically and which is closely aligned with Native legends surrounding the site.

Despite having a strong case to present to The United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) due to their obligation to reject names which may cause offence to racial, ethnic and religious groups, the campaigners have faced strong resistance from some Wyoming state politicians, who have used their powers to block the renaming petition from being considered.

Consequently, supporters of the campaign are forced to resort to taking their petition to the highest level for approval by the President of the United States, Secretary of the Interior, or Congress. However, in order to have the best chance of success and of finally restoring Bear Lodge’s true name, the petition needs as many members and allies of Native communities to support it as possible.

Please sign and share the petition to help fight for justice and respect for Indigenous communities.

Read more about the Bear Lodge campaign.

“Together, let us celebrate diversity, promote respect for Indigenous cultures, and ensure that our nation's landmarks reflect an accurate representation of our shared history.”

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