Proposals to Change the Name

Geological map of the Black Hills of Dakota by Henry Newton
Geological map of the Black Hills of Dakota by Henry Newton, E.M. Dept. of the Interior, U.S.G. and G. Survey, J.W. Powell, in charge. Geology of the Black Hills by Henry Newton, E.M. (Julius Bien, Lith. New York, 1879)

This historical cartographic image is part of the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection,

On November 20, 2014, a proposal was submitted to the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) on behalf of a spiritual leader of the Lakota Nation to change the names of the geologic feature "Devils Tower" and the populated place "Devils Tower, Wyoming." On December 1, 2014, the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe wrote to the Secretary of the Interior and others requesting the name "Devils Tower National Monument" be changed. In each instance the request is to change "Devils Tower" to "Bear Lodge." More than twenty Tribes with close association to the Tower hold it sacred, and find the application of the name "Devils" to be offensive.

History of the Name

According to research conducted by the National Park Service, the names "Bear Lodge," "Bears Lodge," and "Mato Teepee" were ascribed to the Tower on most maps between 1874 and 1901. In 1875 Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge escorted the scientific expedition of geologist Walter P. Jenney though the Black Hills to determine the truth of rumors of gold initiated by Lt.Col Custer the previous year. Dodge wrote in his 1875 journal, "The Indians call this shaft 'The Bad God's Tower,' a name adopted, with proper modifications, by our surveyors." It is speculated that a guide for Col. Dodge was the source of this translation, and "Bear Lodge" may have been mistakenly interpreted as "Bad God's." As a result, "Bad God's Tower" then became "Devils Tower." The name "Devils Tower" was applied to maps of that era, and subsequently used as the name of the national monument when it was proclaimed in 1906.

Who has the Authority to Change the Name

The National Park Service has no authority to change the names of the geologic feature, the populated place, or the national monument. The name of the geologic feature and the populated place may be changed by the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN), the Congress, or the President. The name of the national monument may be changed by an act of Congress or by a Presidential Proclamation.

Update on Recent Developments

On February 2, 2023, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (WY) introduced S. 267 in the United States Senate. The purpose of the bill is to retain the name Devils Tower for both the geologic feature and the populated place. This bill mirrors similar legislation introduced in the past several congresses. Even if this bill does not become law during the 118th Congress, as a result of its introduction, BGN policies prevent consideration of any proposed name change until at least 90 days after the beginning of the next session of Congress (January 3, 2025). The Wyoming Board of Geographic Names adheres to the same national BGN policy. Accordingly, neither the United States Board nor the Wyoming Board are currently accepting comments on the November 20, 2014 proposal.

Avenue for Commenting on the Proposal to Change the Name

Comments regarding proposals to change the name "Devils Tower" may be sent to your respective congressional representative or the White House.

Last updated: March 1, 2023

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