Gore renaming considered again

file photo/Rosie Stahl
file photo/Rosie Stahl

by Marissa Lorenz
At their most recent regular meeting, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) revisited the proposal before the
US Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to rename the Gore Range, which stretches 75 miles through Summit, Grand, Eagle, Routt, and Jackson Counties.

The recommendation was first brought forward in January, after Karn Stiegelmeier of Silverthorne and a former Summit County Commissioner submitted the name for consideration, pointing out that the current name of “Gore” honors Sir St. George Gore, a 19th-century Irish nobleman infamous even at the time for his extravagant and wasteful hunting excursion through the American West.

From about 1854 to 1857, Gore financed a large-scale hunting expedition through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas during which he was said to have personally killed 2,000 buffalo, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.

One contemporary citizen wrote to the Secretary of the Interior, observing, “We punish an Indian for killing a settler’s cow for food. (…) How can such destruction of their game be permitted by their friends in the Government of the United States?”

Gore returned to Ireland in 1857 and remained unmarried with no direct descendents.

In September 2020, Summit County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to change the name of the Gore Range, which Sir St. George may or may not have traversed during his outing.

The Board proposed renaming the geographic feature the “Nuchu Range,” a name reportedly agreed upon by Ute Tribal leadership, including the Northern Ute, Southern Ute, and Ute Mountain Tribes, which has historical use (occasionally spelled Nuche), and which means “the Ute’s Range” in the Ute language.

Grand County Commissioners first raised the topic in January 2021, at which time Commissioner Merrit Linke opposed the idea, Commissioner Kristen Manguso sought more information, and Commissioner Rich Cimino, who serves on the Colorado Board on Geographic Names, remained neutral.

The conversation brought out substantial community input, as many long-time residents have only known the mountain range (and other nearby features) by the contested name.

However, Travis Write, President of the Grand County Historical Society, reminds, “While it is difficult to imagine changing the name of
a range that has filled our modern history books, it is also important to recognize the historic moment and potential name change put forward by Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier who raised this issue on Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017.

Wright observes that the name has already been changed as a result of the 1964 Wilderness Act, under which a 1976 act changed the name of the Gore Range-Eagles Nest Primitive Area to the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

“There is no explanation in the legislature, and US Forest Service officials do not know why the name was changed,” Wright continues.

“Generally, wilderness areas are named for the most prominent geographic feature within their administrative areas. Perhaps it was an effort to shorten a long and cumbersome name, or it may have been an effort to disassociate a wilderness area name from that of a person who represented the antinomy of the wilderness concept.”

This week, upon receiving a follow-up email from BGN research staff, only Commissioners Manguso and Cimino were present for discussion as Linke was participating in a separate state-level meeting.

“[W]e ask that, if possible, you respond by email with an opinion by September 15th, 2021,” reads the BGN email. “If you need more time, please let [the BGN] know. Also, please note that if no response is received, the BGN will consider your opinion to be ‘no opinion’ and will make a decision that might affect the use of names in Grand County.”

Cimino requested the subject be brought forward for public discussion, and Manguso proposed a scheduled agenda item for which the public would receive notice and during which they could provide input.

The topic will have public notice at co.grand.co.us and will take place during a regularly-scheduled Tuesday meeting of the Grand County BOCC.

Comments can be made to the federal Board via email at bgnexec@usgs.gov.