Squaw Peak lies in the heart of Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range. The peak offers scenic trails and beautiful views making it a popular hiking and camping destination. However, this mountain provides much more than just a place for outdoor activity. An investigation into the naming of the peak gives insight into the history of the area.

Violence seemed inevitable. The tension building between the Ute Native Americans and White Mormon settlers over the past year had reached its peak. When church members first entered the Utah territory in 1847, they chose to settle in the Salt Lake Valley area rather than the favorable lands around Utah Lake and the Provo River. They did this to avoid any conflict with the local Native tribes. However, in the spring of 1849, white settlers finally could not help themselves and they began to establish homes, farms, and schools in the Provo area. The influx of families in the land posed an immediate threat to the Natives. They feared that local fish, game, and farmland would not be enough to sustain both parties. In this way, the Utes justified stealing some of the settler’s crops and cattle in order to compensate for their lost resources. Both parties felt taken advantage of and in April 1850, war finally broke out.

Mormon militia men sent by Brigham Young to protect the settlement found themselves in a shootout with a Ute war party which was led by the feared warrior Chief Old Elk. In an incident which is now referred to as the Battle of Provo River, the outmatched Ute warriors retreated, taking their wives and children up the steep trails of Rock Canyon. Some consider it to be folklore, but legend has it that, during the haste of the retreat, the wife of Chief Old Elk fell from the rocky cliffs of the canyon. Locals from then on referred to the mountain as Squaw Peak.

In 2017, Provo Mayor John Curtis organized a committee to petition for a name-change of the landmark. "RePeak Committee" members claim insensitive to the tragic incident of 1850. that the word “Squaw” is offensive and derogatory towards Native women. One of the local Native American women who is a member of the committee explains, “It just brings up a lot of those feelings and a lot of those traumas that history kind of has forgotten about or it’s not really taught.” The committee is currently seeking to rename the Peak after a local Utah Native American woman, pending permission from the local Ute Tribe.

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