Effort to change name of Gore Range hits stiff opposition in Grand County
GRANBY — A Grand County commissioner Tuesday, Jan. 26, condemned a proposal to change the name of the Gore Range.
Grand commissioners briefly considered a resolution passed by Summit County commissioners that would rename the mountain range the Nuchu Range. The 75-mile-long range spans Eagle, Grand, Routt and Summit counties.
Commissioner Merrit Linke made it clear he does not support the effort and that he doesn’t think it’s worth the board’s time to even discuss it.
“I think that it’s trying to change history from 150 years ago,” Linke said. “I get it, that Mr. Gore — 150 years ago in 1857 or whatever it was — wasn’t maybe by today’s standards somebody that we would look up to in terms of what he did. But I don’t think changing the name of the Gore Range today to Nunchuck or Nuchuck, or whatever it is, is really going to fix all those things.”
Nuchu Range, the proposed name, means Ute’s Range. The name change was proposed by former Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier after leaders from the Northern Ute, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes selected the new name, which is meant to honor the tribes and their history in the area.
Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino outlined the name-changing process, which ultimately will be decided by a federal board.
Cimino serves on the state’s Geographic Naming Advisory Board, which was revived last year following rising social consciousness of racist and fraught landmark names during the Black Lives Matter protests.
“It’s a very controversial thing, in my opinion,” Cimino said. “People care about the names of things. You spend your whole life — your parents spent their whole life — calling it the Gore Range.”
Commissioners from the counties the range spans were sent a form that they can submit to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names with their recommendation on whether to approve or deny the change.
According to a case brief provided to the commissioners, Sir St. George Gore was an Irish aristocrat known for his 1854 to 1857 hunting expedition in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas.
During the trip, his party killed an estimated 4,000 bison, 1,500 elk, 2,000 deer, 1,500 antelope and 500 bears, including at least 100 grizzly bears.
“The extravagant and expensive trip was unfavorably viewed in its time by Indigenous peoples and white mountain men as a destructive slaughter of wildlife,” the brief’s author wrote. “Local and national objections to the excesses of Gore’s hunting have been well documented since the 1800s.”
The document also points out that Gore never set foot in or near the core of the mountain range named for him, though he might have crossed Gore Pass. It is not known why his name became associated with the range.
According to the summary, the name for the range might have come after a passing reference in an 1868 newspaper article about a climb of Long’s Peak, where “Gore’s Range” could be seen in the distance.
Articles published in 1935 also referred to the range as Eagles Nest Range, and Grand County Commissioner Kris Manguso wondered why that wasn’t the proposed name.
The name Nuchu comes from the Ute Indians, who lived in the area before being forcefully moved to three reservations in Utah and southwest Colorado.
Manguso said she had not had enough time to research and form an opinion about the possible change. Cimino added that because of his role on the state board, he would defer to the other two commissioners.
“I have a hard time trying to change names of things that happened 150 years ago because it might offend somebody today,” Linke said. “I’m not seeing it, sorry.”
The commissioners did not make any decisions or schedule additional discussion, instead asking for further information about the requested response and associated deadline.
Leon Littlebird, a Summit County musician of Navajo descent, has spent more than three years campaigning to rename the central Colorado mountain range, but the effort picked up steam in September, when Summit County’s commissioners passed a resolution — one using some of the same language as the case brief provided to Grand County commissioners — urging the state’s Geographic Naming Advisory Board to change the name to the Nuchu Range.
The resolution states that the name change is an example of an “inappropriate geographic name” changing over time in order to reflect the board’s current values.
“I think this is a perfect name since tribal leaders picked it and because it claims the range for the Ute people,” Littlebird said. “… I like it a lot. Been a long time coming.”
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