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A group of concerned Northern Colorado citizens, the No Pingree Task Force, is working to change the name of some geographic features in Larimer County.
Task Force spokesperson John Gascoyne said “We find the name Pingree to be an affront not only to Native Americans but to those of us who believe it is inappropriate to recognize a man responsible for genocidal atrocities during the Indian wars of the 19th Century.”
Pingree Road, Pingree Hill, and Pingree Park are place names north and west of Fort Collins.
Gascoyne noted that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has formally established a process to remove from Federal lands in the West racist and sexist place names that are disrespectful of Native Americans.
We support the Haaland initiative,” Gascoyne said. “We hope that an increased awareness of these issues will make our task easier.” He noted that the process of name changes involves both state and federal agencies. “Local support is required,” Gascoyne noted. “We are working with local elected officials to secure their endorsement of the proposed changes and we will seek input from private citizens as well.”
Gascoyne provided information about George Pingree and Silas Soule. Soule is the name the Task Force is recommending to replace that of Pingree:
On the morning of November 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington led the1st Colorado Volunteer Cavalry Regiment to an American Indian encampment on Sand Creek in eastern Colorado. In the following hours, Chivington’s command brutally killed an estimated 230 Arapaho and Cheyenne men, women, and children who were encamped under an American flag and a white flag of truce.
After the massacre, soldiers mutilated the corpses and carried body parts back to Denver to parade them around the city. A volunteer scout named George Pingree was among the most vicious and least remorseful of those who assaulted the peaceful village. By his own account, he took 13 scalps and traded them to a Denver barber for two years of haircuts.
Captain Silas Soule was present at the 1864 massacre. He refused to allow the men under his direct command to participate. Soule later wrote letters to military officials exposing Chivington and his troops. This led to investigations by two congressional committees and an Army commission. Soule testified against Chivington at those hearings. Soule was shot down on a Denver street on April 23, 1865, possibly because of his stand against those who perpetrated the massacre. No one was ever held accountable for his death. Colorado elected officials, including Governor John Evans, supported Chivington’s action as did the general populace who wanted Indians removed from the State by any means.
Every year near the anniversary of the massacre, representatives of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations along with other participants run in relays from Sand Creek to Denver. At the intersection of 15th and Arapaho Streets in downtown Denver runners pause to honor the memory of Captain Soule who was killed at that location.
Gascoyne said the Native American respect for Silas Soule is one reason the Task Force supports Soule as the replacement name.
Kristin Stephens, Larimer County Commission Chair, and Jeni Arndt, Mayor of Fort Collins, both said they favor the change.