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White Singing Bird to receive due honor
Photo courtesy: Craig Nielson

By Joshua Pilkington

What’s in a name? Everything when it comes to Chipeta Mountain

Looking over the Sawatch Range in Southern Chaffee County one can take in the miraculous view of three of the range’s mountains. The peak points of the mountains all carry a name. Mount Ouray and Pahlone Peak are named for the highest point on their respective mountains. The third mountain, however, Chipeta Mountain, is named for the second-highest point on its massif and is out of plain sight.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Harvey Grossman, 41, of Montrose, Colo. As an avid mountaineer, Grossman has ventured up and around most of Colorado’s peaks. He was not aware of the slight of Chipeta Mountain until he learned of the Chipeta Mountain Project from his fiancée and fellow adventurer Gretchen Cartwright. “Gretch told me about this project that was aimed at getting the summit of Chipeta (Mountain) to carry the name of the mountain. I mean it’s the highest point of the mountain, why on earth doesn’t it have the same name as the mountain? It just seemed so bizarre to me.”

Grossman wasn’t the only one who felt like the “Queen of the Utes” had been slighted in having a secondary and out-of-sight sub-peak on her mountain named after her. Author Wayne Iverson was so irked by it, in fact, he wrote an in-depth article about it for the March 2016 issue of Colorado Central Magazine. That article helped get the Chipeta Mountain Project off the ground.

“As the famous philosopher, Anonymous, once said, ‘An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.’ Hopefully, the U.S. Geological Survey Board on Geographic Names (BGN) will be amenable to the change,” wrote Iverson.

Chipeta Rising

Through a public campaign and a lot of personal investments from Wayne and Licia Iverson, Sellars Project Space, Colorado Thirteeners and a variety of sponsoring community organizers and designers the Chipeta Mountain Project has successfully given way to the Chipeta Rising Celebration.

The Chipeta Rising Celebration will not only celebrate the renaming of the mountain’s summit, but also promises to be a celebration of Ute culture and unity.

The event begins on October 8 with a Unity Walk led by Chipeta’s family from Alpine Park to SteamPlant Event Center in Salida, Colo. Members of the Ute Nation as well as state and county officials will be on hand for the day’s events, which will last into the evening.

On October 9 events include the Peak Dedication Ceremony as well as a memorial climb to Chipeta Mountain’s renamed summit sponsored by the Colorado Mountain Club.

“It’s such an exhilarating thing to think about,” Grossman said of summiting the renamed peak of Chipeta Mountain. “To be among the first people to summit Chipeta as it was meant to be, that’s just a thrill.”

Who was Chipeta?

Of course, such a project would not have received much pull if it weren’t for the individual whose name it bore. As Iverson wrote, “Public support will be necessary, so you should know something about Chipeta.”

When it comes to the history of strong Native American women names like Fallen Leaf (commonly known as Woman Chief) and Running Eagle are among those most commonly mentioned. But where they are revered for their abilities in battle, Chipeta (White Singing Bird) was an Indian rights advocate, diplomat and peacekeeper.

She was born in 1843 to the Kiowa Apache Tribe in what is now Conejos, Colo. In 1845 Ute Indians discovered her as the only survivor of a massacre. They took in the two-year-old as their own and gave her the name of Chipeta. She and her husband, Chief Ouray, were known as the Ute peacemakers. Alongside her Chief Ouray, Chipeta assisted in shaping much of the early Colorado landscape as land changed hands often through treaty negotiations between the Utes and white settlers.

Her efforts to achieve peace with white settlers through diplomacy earned her an induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

For more information on how to be a part of the Chipeta Rising Celebration or to sponsor the cause visit





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