Should the Gore Range Be Renamed?

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The mountain range in question, currently known as the Gore Range.

Cami Johnson, Chief Staff Writer

The Gore Range spans 1,420 square miles across Grand, Summit, Routt, and Eagle counties and is close to home for VMS students as a familiar, beautiful view when we near school each morning and as the mascot for our athletic teams. Even beyond our VMS community and the Gore Range, many other landmarks, companies, and organizations are named after the same man, Lord Gore. However, the name of the Gore Range has come into question over the legacy and actions of its namesake during his time in America.

Lord Gore was an Irish nobleman who traveled through North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado in the 1850s for a massive hunting expedition. Gore killed somewhere around 2,000 buffalo, 1,600 elk and deer, and 100 bears, often leaving the animals to rot rather than gathering the meat and other resources for food or sale, contrary to the beliefs and practices of the native people of the land on which he was hunting. He was also known for traveling in extreme luxury, with multiple wagons simply to carry his many weapons.

As residents of the Rocky Mountains, VMS students are aware of the harshness of this environment. It is truly incredible that the Ute people who first inhabited this area could survive and thrive as they did. Seemingly, Lord Gore’s greatest crime, beyond being an outsider who hunted unethically in the pursuit of power, was that he wasted precious resources on which the native people of the West relied.

Given his time in America, Lord Gore is clearly not the type of person who deserves eternal memorialization in one of Colorado’s most recognizable mountain ranges. His bloody adventures influenced Summit County politicians to propose to change the name of the Gore Range to the Nutchu Range, meaning Ute’s Range, in the fall of 2020. Leaders from local Ute tribes assisted in picking the proposed name to ensure that it would honor the indigenous people of the area and their heritage.

However, this movement met swift opposition from the surrounding counties, who expressed that the Gore Range has become a part of Colorado’s history and that changing it is not beneficial. Many towns and counties held votes between the fall of 2020 and the fall of 2021 to decide whether or not they would support the proposition for the name change. Our own Vail town council opted not to vote since “there was not unanimous support for the topic with multiple council members against the proposal,” Town Councilman Travis Coggins said. “There is a Colorado State Naming Commission that addresses this topic, and many of us felt it was more appropriate for the Town Council to provide information to the community and encourage community members to provide their feelings on the topic directly to the board.”

These votes have left the movement stalled out on the desk of the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, the group that has the final say about all name changes for geographic and natural features in the state of Colorado. This board will eventually decide on the fate of the Gore Range. However, as with most bureaucratic decisions, likely, the decision about the Gore Range will not come for quite some time.

This potential name change is on the back of a national movement to rename or remove monuments to morally ambiguous historical figures. By October of 2020, more than 100 monuments to confederate figures were taken down or renamed. In the protests following George Floyd’s death that same year, many others memorializing people who contributed to racial injustice or systematic racism were vandalized or torn down. People who have systematically oppressed minorities, such as Lord Gore on his western expedition, should not be remembered through monuments as heroes would be. Yet, many argue that changing names and removing these landmarks only ensures we will forget the history around those individuals and events; instead, the approach should be historical education. When questioned whether or not he believes that this movement benefits society, Counsilman Coggins responded, “I believe there is a difficult line to walk between acknowledging our history and learning from it by leaving a name or statue in place, and also understanding that some names and statues continue to be hurtful to many. By encouraging smaller scale civic engagement, I believe a community or state has an opportunity to collectively discuss these challenging names or statues and hopefully work toward a solution that finds a balance that is best for that community.”

Until a decision about the name of the Gore Range is made, VMS sports teams will continue to compete as Gore Rangers. Additionally, our community can always benefit from the Councilman’s advice by maintaining civil discourse and respecting the feelings of others.