Doing the Right Thing… Good morning Hump Day readers. The other day I watched a documentary by the National Park Service on Mount Doane in Yellowstone National Park—one of our favorites. This huge mountain rims a part of Yellowstone Lake. With its 10,551-foot peak it commands your attention and is usually peaked with snow and often shrouded in clouds. Pure magnificence.
I never knew how it got its name until I watched the program. In fact, the name ‘Doane’ has been steeped in controversy for years—why? Gustavus Cheyney Doane, a U.S. Army officer orchestrated a raid on a camp of Piegan Blackfeet in the Montana Territory in 1870. He hated native people, refused to call them Americans. He treasured any possibility to wipe them out and, in this raid, he did just that, resulting in the deaths of around 200 people who, get this, were mostly women, elderly men and children! None of these people took up arms to fight, they were sitting ducks.
Doane’s racism was well known; he never expressed public remorse for his actions. Instead, he bragged about his role in what became known as the Marias Massacre (sadly our school books leave out this history). So proud of himself for this massacre, Doane applied for the position of Yellowstone superintendent. Wisely, the folks in charge turned him down quickly, and, according to the info in the program, told him he was not welcome to set one foot in Yellowstone Park—both the Wyoming and Montana side.
Later, a friend of Doane who was a huge financial political donor, weaseled his way into some politicians and thus the name Mount Doane. This man also hated native peoples and he delighted to see them offended at his underhandedness to name the mountain for officer Doane. He deemed the native peoples as “not of God”—one has to wonder if the religion he spouted was really about God! Yet, stirring in the hearts of not only native peoples but many others from western states and farther beyond, was the push to get right this wrong.
In 2017 an application for a name change was presented to the National Park Service. Sadly, it again met resistance, but the proposal was shared with all of North America and gained traction very quickly. Tom Rodgers, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and mostly known as One Who Rides His Horse East, said: “The country is coming to a reckoning with history. This is NOT revenge, it is a reckoning, a time to right what was wrong and apologize for those wrongs so everyone can go forward.”
The push by Rodgers and thousands more of all color and creed, wouldn’t give up and finally the name change was supported by the Park Service and approved unanimously in June 2022 by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (the final arbiters on naming). The mountain is now properly called First Peoples Mountain–makes sense indeed.
Watching the ceremony gave me tears and also hope that we, as a nation, can face our wrongs and right them, and be reminded that we invaded this continent (without welcome) and sadly moved/removed and sometimes wiped out the indigenous peoples who didn’t look like us, act like us, dress like us and worship like us. At the close of the ceremony, Tom Rodgers said “Now we can begin to really heal from all these deaths.”
For thousands of centuries this planet has been inhabited by humans who have found a way to make their place—often not in a kind way. Those who profess faith in God and call themselves Christians were a part of these centuries up to today. Sadly, we haven’t learned much and still embrace racist views. “If you don’t look like us, speak like us, etc., you are easily branded as an “un-human” human! If we profess faith in God and act this way, what bible are we reading—what God do we worship, what testimony are we giving?
To close this devotion, I went to Deuteronomy 10:16-35, using The Voice translation. Read it through and take these words into your heart and mind. God is speaking to us today as forcefully as he did to the often-racist Israelites thousands of years ago! You would think by now we would get it—right? AMEN.
“Cut away that hard covering around your heart, and do not harden your neck against me, because the Eternal your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great and mighty and amazing God! He doesn’t favor the powerful, and He can’t be bribed. He enforces His justice for the powerless, such as orphans and widows, and He loves foreigners, making sure they have food and clothing. You must love those foreigners living with you in the same way. Remember how you were foreigners in the land of Egypt! So fear the Eternal your God; serve Him, and be devoted to Him. Show your loyalty by swearing oaths only in His name. He’s the One you must praise—He’s your God who has done such great and amazing things for you, as you’ve seen with your own eyes. When your ancestors went into Egypt, there were only 70 people in their whole clan. But He kept increasing your numbers, and now there are as many of you as there are stars in the sky!”