Jeff Davis Peak name change ad­vances

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - REMEMBERING -

RENO, Nev. — A state board wants to change the name of a moun­tain peak in eastern Ne­vada’s Great Basin Na­tional Park to more ap­pro­pri­ately rec­og­nize a ge­o­log­i­cal area im­por­tant to a na­tive tribe in­stead of hon­or­ing the pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­acy.

The Ne­vada Board of Geo­graphic Names voted unan­i­mously Tues­day to rec­om­mend to a fed­eral panel in charge of mak­ing such de­ci­sions that the name of Jeff Davis Peak be changed to the Shoshone name “Doso Doy­abi.”

The phrase — pro­nounced “DOH-soh doyAH-bee” — means “white moun­tain” in the na­tive di­alect.

Tribal el­ders say it’s a ref­er­ence to the fact the sum­mit of the 12,771-foot moun­tain near the Utah line was cov­ered in snow year-round.

Sup­port for a name change emerged in 2017 dur­ing a push to re­move Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions across the coun­try.

Chris­tine K. John­son, the col­lec­tion man­ager for the Ne­vada Historical So­ci­ety who serves as a non­vot­ing mem­ber on the state board, says the name ap­proved Tues­day was sup­ported by the Duck­wa­ter Shoshone Tribe as well as mem­bers of other area tribes. She said a for­mal ap­pli­ca­tion for the name change will be for­warded to the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey’s Board on Geo­graphic Names.

Jeff Davis Peak is about 240 miles south­west Salt Lake City. Davis’ name orig­i­nally was on a neigh­bor­ing moun­tain now known as Wheeler Peak, Ne­vada’s sec­ond-high­est point.

Dur­ing a sur­vey in

1855, Lt. Col. Ed­ward Step­toe of the U.S. Army Corps named the peak af­ter his boss, then-U.S. Sec­re­tary of War Jef­fer­son Davis, who later be­came the pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica. Wheeler Peak got its per­ma­nent name af­ter Ge­orge Mon­tague Wheeler scaled the moun­tain in 1869, and the neigh­bor­ing peak then be­came Jeff Davis.

The re­nam­ing was for­mally pro­posed last year by tribal el­ders who said their mother was one of the few sur­vivors of the Spring Val­ley mas­sacre in 1863 when the U.S. mil­i­tary killed a group of Shoshones nearby. The Univer­sity of Utah’s Shoshone Lan­guage Project ver­i­fied the name’s au­then­tic­ity.

Board mem­bers voiced their sup­port of the change in Septem­ber as a sym­bol of “rec­on­cil­i­a­tion not divi­sion,” ac­cord­ing to the board’s min­utes.

Of­fi­cials for the fed­eral board could not be reached for com­ment be­cause of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down.

U.S. board re­search staffer Jen­nifer Run­yon told the AP in 2017 that the panel typ­i­cally is re­luc­tant to change wellestab­lished names in long-stand­ing pub­lished or spo­ken use, “but will con­sider do­ing so if the pro­po­nent can demon­strate that there is a com­pelling rea­son and if there is lo­cal sup­port for the change.”


Jeff Davis Peak (left) and Wheeler Peak re­flect in the wa­ters of Stella Lake at Ne­vada’s Great Basin Na­tional Park. Davis’ name could soon be re­moved and the sum­mit re­named “Doso Doy­abi,” a Shoshone phrase mean­ing white moun­tain.

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