Last week I shared about Devils Tower in Sundance, Wyoming and how it was the first national monument in the United States. Any other fellow grammar nerds out there? I didn’t mispell Devils Tower during my previous blog post – it truly is D-e-v-i-l-(no apostrophe)s. Today I’ll talk a little more about its name. If you need to catch up from last week, you can find the post here.
During the formation of the official proclamation in 1906, the apostrophe was accidentally left out. After the naming ceremony had taken place, it’s difficult to go back and make a correction of the official record. Can you imagine a typo you made being present 100+ years later?? As a former editor and grammar enthusiast that seems like a complete nightmare!
The name Devils Tower itself is said to come from a wrong translation. Many of the Native American tribes of this time period called the geological feature “Bear Lodge”. Other names used by Native Americans included Bear Lodge Butte, Grizzly Bear’s Lodge, Gray Horn Butte, and Tree Rock.
From 1874 to 1901 most maps of the area show the feature labeled as Bear Lodge. In the early 1900’s the name Devil’s Tower began to become prevalent among the public following the expedition of the area led and resulting book by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge in 1876. In his book he mentioned, “The Indians call this shaft ‘The Bad God’s Tower,’ a name adopted, with proper modifications, by our surveyors.” It is suspected that the expedition team misinterpreted the name.
You see, in the Lakota language, the word for black bear is wahanksica.
The word for bad god or evil spirit is called wakansica.
It looks like it could be an easy mistake to make. After the popularity of Col. Dodge’s book, the name Devil’s Tower stuck (note at this time it had the apostrophe).
There was a proposal filed with the US Government in 2014 requesting that the name be changed back to Bear Lodge. There are currently opposing proposals introduced by both Wyoming representatives in congress advocating that Devils Tower retains its current name. (S.70 and H.R.401 for those who want to follow the status of these bills).
Have you seen Devils Tower in person?
Resources & Further Reading:
7 Majestic Facts About Devils Tower
About the Name
Proposals to Change the Name