CASPER, Wyo. | Public comment is being gathered on whether to change the name of the Devils Tower geographic landmark in northeast Wyoming to Bear Lodge.
The request for the name change was made last November by American Indian spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse.
If the name were to change, it would only apply to the geographic rock and the nearby hamlet, both called Devils Tower.
The name of the Devils Tower National Monument could only be changed by Congress or a presidential executive order, said Tim Reid, superintendent of the monument.
The National Park Service doesn't have a position on the name, Reid told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1MXLmQq ).
Devils Tower became the country's first national monument when it was created in 1906.
In his request to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Looking Horse said the name "Devils Tower" is a white man's mistranslation of the words "Bad God's Tower."
It is offensive "because it equates cultural and faith traditions practiced at this site to 'devil worship,' in essence equating indigenous people to 'devils,'" the name change proposal states.
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The proposal has drawn opposition from people at the state and local levels.
"The general consensus amongst the local citizens so far has been in opposition to the name change mostly due to economic factors," said Devin Traff, executive director of the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names. "There has been some support for the name change. Most of that have come from individuals who have written in to me."
Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, has a family ranch at the base of the tower and opposes the change.
Driskill said the name Devils Tower was never meant to be offensive.
Driskill and Crook County Commission Chairman Kelly Dennis said Bear Lodge is a name used for other geographic features in northeastern Wyoming. Renaming Devils Tower would cause confusion.
A local mountain range is called Bear Lodge, as is the area's ranger district for the Black Hills National Forest. There is a ranch called Bear Lodge as well as a resort in the Big Horn Mountains.
There has also been concern about the cost of changing the tourism pamphlets and brochures that promote the site.