September 8, 2023 | FEATURES | By Hannah Smith
Pike Street, Pikes Peak Cafe, Pikes Perk Coffee Shop, and even Pikes Poke Bowl are only a few of the many sites in Colorado Springs named after the city’s popular fourteener: Pikes Peak. But Pikes Peak isn’t even the mountain’s true name.
Indigenous communities inhabited the surrounding area of Pikes Peak hundreds of years before Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike – a former U.S. Army officer and explorer – named the mountain in 1806. According to a Colorado Encyclopedia article, the Utes called the mountain “Tava,” which means “Sun Mountain,” while the Arapaho, also having their own name for the peak, called it “heey-otoyoo,” or “long mountain.”
Despite some lack of knowledge of Pikes Peak’s true name, the community at Colorado College has been making strides to recognize the Springs’s indigenous history.
Through CC’s indigenous studies minor – including various indigenous professors – as well as CC’s Native Student Union and Chaplain office indigenous resource center, CC is working toward providing more recognition on campus.
CC has renamed some of its campus spaces to reflect names belonging to local indigenous history rather than wealthy or renowned donors, educators, or alumni. According to Lakota Elder-In-Residence Debbie Howell, the campus’s Tava quad was renamed in Feb. 2019, as formerly covered by The Catalyst.
“When I first started here [in 2019], the Tava Quad was formerly known as the Armstrong Quad and was renamed as the Tava Quad,” Howell told The Catalyst. “There was a ceremony of Ute dancers [who came out] to provide education and awareness.”
As an Elder-In-Residence, Howell works in CC’s Chaplain’s Office to provide education and support to CC students and staff, especially indigenous community members. Howell informs students of local Sweat Lodges, structures that allow for spiritual practices, and other indigenous-related social gatherings locally and on campus.
“The Chaplain’s Office just last year incorporated an indigenous spirituality circle, and then also through my being part of the Chaplain’s Office, I try to provide Blockly smudge circles and bring in a variety of tribes and traditions,” Howell said.
Despite what has already been done, Howell mentioned that there is always more to be done on university campuses in regard to indigenous education, stating that it is continually important for youth entering into a collegiate setting to learn about native history.
“Through the years I’ve noticed that some, not all [and not just students either] think that we don’t exist or that we only live in certain areas. Grade school students may not have [as much] of a background about indigenous organizations,” Howell said.
CC student, Elizabeth O’Neil ’26, told The Catalyst about why she thinks it’s vital that CC’s student body in particular strives to be educated on indigenous history. In O’Neil’s opinion, the CC land acknowledgment and other campus historical recounts soften a violent history of displacement.
“I will just say that the history CC tells is a much softer story than is true, and it’s inappropriate especially given how white-dominated the school is. CC [students] should be making reparations, not only land acknowledgments; we should be funding [minority] club events,” O’Neil said.
Jessica Sanchez Flores, a member of the indigenous Nahua and CC assistant professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is part of a new incoming cohort of professors. Sanchez Flores hopes to bring educational awareness regarding indigenous literature from Mexico to CC.
“For me [the motivation to teach] was to see change. I think that the more we know about other indigenous communities the more change we can do together. It is hard to do it by oneself,” Flores said.
According to Flores, many indigenous communities are diasporic. Flores mentioned that there is even a community of indigenous people from Mexico here in Pueblo, Colo. Thus, it’s important for others to have a wide array of education not only on local indigenous communities but nationwide communities too.
“I speak from my own experience I am from Mexico, but because of different things happening, I am now here [in the Springs]. We as indigenous peoples are in constant movement,” Flores said. “So how can we all work together?”
Flores continued by questioning what is causing the continual nationwide displacement of indigenous peoples.
“What is happening that is creating a constant displacement of indigenous peoples both here, in Turtle Island and in other places like Mexico and Central America?” Flores said. “Why does that keep happening across Native and Indigenous territories at a global level? What are those structures that continue to fuel that?”