Creek in Edwards gets a new name from the feds |

Creek in Edwards gets a new name from the feds

Squaw Creek renamed for Ute Chief Colorow

Scott Miller
Vail Daily
Hikers cross Squaw Creek in Edwards. The U.S. Geological Survey has changed the creek's name because many consider "squaw" to be offensive. The creek is now named for Ute Chief Colorow.
Vail Daily archive

The U.S. Geological Survey recently announced it was changing the names of roughly 650 places, including one in Edwards.

The word “squaw” is considered offensive, which has led to the change. In Eagle County, Squaw Creek is being renamed “Colorow,” for a renowned chief of the Ute tribe, which once called this area home. Upper Squaw Creek is being renamed “Nuchu,” a slight modification of the word Utes use to refer to themselves.

Nuchu has also been suggested as a new name for the Gore Range. That range carries the name of Lord St. George Gore, a British noble who led a hunting expedition that slaughtered countless animals, taking neither meat nor hides from the animals. It’s unlikely he ever set foot in Eagle County.

In a February statement on the website of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary Deb Haaland said of the change, “Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Consideration of these (name) replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.”

The creek in Edwards is one of 28 Colorado places to be renamed, and one of roughly 650 across the U.S.

Kathy Heicher of the Eagle County Historical Society said the change to Colorow was second on that group’s recommendations when asked for input on a new name for the creek. First, though, was Fenno, in honor of a family that homesteaded up the creek. The Fennos also owned land up the creek until selling to the developers of the Cordillera area.

Heicher said there may be only a bit of evidence that Colorow was ever in Eagle County. The record, in fact, is only found in one place, a 1939 county history produced by local high school students. But, Heicher added, the Historical Society was hoping for a name with more local significance.

The group recommended other names, including Emma Creek, for Emma Fenno, and Stagecoach Creek, since there was once a stagecoach line that ran in the area.

The Squaw Creek name dates back to at least 1882, years after the Utes had been driven out of the county.

While other names were presented to the state’s board on place names, Heicher said it was quickly apparent that the board was searching for a Ute name.

Heicher has in the past spoken out against renaming the Gore Range, advocating instead for putting names into historical context. And, she added, a new name probably won’t go into common usage for some time — people know the drainage leading to Cordillera as Squaw Creek. It could take years before people talk about turning up Colorow Creek.

Heicher said there’s some debate whether “squaw” is a broadly offensive name, adding that if something’s truly offensive, then a name change is appropriate.

“But if people think they can make history right by changing names … I don’t think they can,” she said.

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