By Patrick Filbin
Gillette News Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — A bill that will protect the country’s first national monument from a name change passed the House Natural Resources Committee this week with the help of Wyoming’s representative.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s bill, House Resolution 401, designates the geological formation at Devils Tower National Monument as Devils Tower and protects “the name of one of Wyoming’s most beloved and well-known landmarks.”
The name has sparked many debates over the last few decades.
In 2005, United Native America founder Mark Graham supported an outright name change of Devils Tower to Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark, saying that religious beliefs of Native Americans had been “trampled on,” according to an Associated Press story.
Ten years later, the city of Gillette and Campbell County officials passed resolutions in support of keeping the name of Devils Tower for the landmark.
The resolutions supporting preservation of the name came after a request by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a Native American spiritual leader, to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the name of the rock formation to Bear Lodge.
The request was made on the basis that the name “Devils Tower” is offensive to some groups because it is said to be a mistranslation of “Bad God’s Tower,” the Native American name for the monument.
The name Bear Lodge comes from many Native American stories telling of a bear clawing the tower’s sides.
Local officials said at the time that changing the name to any alternative would cause confusion for the 500,000 tourists who visit the tower each year.
Changing the name of the monument would affect only the geographic rock and neighboring community. Only Congress or a presidential executive order could change the name of the national monument.
“Wyoming’s Devils Tower is one of our state’s most beautiful and sacred geological features,” Cheney said in a press release. “In addition to its historic importance in our state, Devils Tower attracts crucial tourism and revenue to our communities.”
Cheney went on to say that she is proud of her bill’s progression and that she looks forward to working with Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso to “protect” the special monument.