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 January 22, 2021, Sen. Cynthia Lummis (WY) introduced S.22 in the United States Congress. The purpose of the bill is to retain the name Devils Tower for both the geologic feature and the populated place. These bills mirror similar legislation introduced in the past several congresses. Even if this bill does not become law during the 117th Congress, as a result of their 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, 2023).The Wyoming Board on 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.
Last updated: November 6, 2021