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CSKT join effort to rename geographic features named after Jefferson Davis

by Lake County Leader
| May 11, 2021 6:34 AM

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have signed on to a petition submitted to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names asking it to rename three geographic features in Montana currently named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederated States of America and ardent defender of slavery and white supremacy.

The Tribes joined the Montana Racial Equity Project, the Montana Human Rights Network, Forward Montana Foundation, Mai Wah Society, Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society in filing the petition regarding Jeff Davis Peak and Jeff Davis Creek, located in the southern stretch of the Bitterroot Range, in Beaverhead County, and Davis Gulch, just south of Helena’s city limits in Lewis and Clark County.

The groups and CSKT are asking the Board of Geographic Names to change the name of Jeff Davis Peak to Three Eagles Peak, in honor of Salish Chief Three Eagles, who welcomed Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery into the Salish camp in September, 1804 and gave the party food, horses and other gifts. Charles Russell’s mural, “Meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross' Hole,” depicts this encounter on the wall of the Montana House of Representatives.

For Davis Creek, the group of organizations is suggesting Choos-wee Creek to honor both Chinese immigrants in Montana and the Salish people who were among the original inhabitants of the area. “Choos-wee” is the Anglicized phonetic spelling of the Salish word for Chinese people.

For Jeff Davis Gulch, the groups are proposing In-qu-qu-leet – a rough phonetic rendering of the Salish word that means Place of Lodgepole Pine.

“These places are part of the homelands of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people and by acknowledging these connections, you are also offering respect for our history and our culture,” CSKT Chairwoman Shelly Fyant said in a prepared statement. “Our people have an ancient and continuing presence in this landscape. The simple choosing of a name is another way to show how we care for this place for the generations to come and an important beginning to the healing process.”

“Montana has an incredibly colorful and diverse history, and Jefferson Davis is thankfully not part of it,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy at The Wilderness Society. “It’s time we use names for our mountains, forests and rivers that reflect our state’s true history and ensure that all people are included and welcomed on our public lands.”