So, what the heck is wrong with just calling it “Red Hill?” It’s current, it’s historical and it requires little more than a tip of the hat to our natural geography. Still, with apologies to Dewey, I confess I have never understood this compulsion to name geographical anomalies after famous or semi-famous personalities. Especially substituting Northern European names and stylized ID for what has always been here and named by the aboriginal inhabitants before the Anglo-Saxon invasion erased the names sacred to the indigenous people.
What sweeps from the tongue more naturally than say, Gros Venture, or Absaroka? The arrogance of white politicians, map makers and other petti-fogging culture cancelers to change those names to a more pronounceable form for the white tribe has always been crap in my mind. More importantly, I enjoy the mental pictures most place names bring to mind when spoken.
Although, admittedly that’s not the entire issue here, or is it? Are we assuming something we don’t know or, are we in our arrogance assuming that the Anglo-Saxon version, “Red Hill,” was always the name of this particular geographical anomaly? Sometimes these names are innocent, sometimes endearing and sometimes just plain insulting.
For example, I’ve always personally resented the “Squaw Teats” designation of those two lonesome buttes out in the 15 mile, south of Meeteetse. Still, can we say that’s definitely not a take-off of an Amerindian designation? In this case I think we can deduce that. However it’s more likely an early white frontier era attempt at a derogatory interpretation of the original. If named previously, it was likely in the crow or Shoshone language.
It’s not so much the “teats” designation that bothers me, since the Grand Tetons seem to be irrevocably entrenched in our geography and our tourist advertising to attract visitors to our state. The thought intrigues the male mind naturally, although I personally see no resemblance to the female breast there (The correct French nomenclature is literally translated into “Breasts Of The Earth” I believe), as reputed to have been named by a group of women-hungry/lonely male French explorers tens of decades ago.
Perhaps their judgment was bent by too many long days slogging down rapid, filled rivers and hiking over vertical granite monuments to nature’s creativity, while living with exclusive male companionship? But to imply that the earth has breasts? That’s a stretch even for a bunch of chauvinistic males, but then again, probably par for the course. You know, booze, bacon, beans and babes, all of the primary functionaries of the stale male ego.
While I heartily agree that the name “squaw teats” is insulting to certain ethnicities and specifically one gender, and should be changed, our county commish seem to be having a problem renaming those less than spectacular dirt mounds out in the middle of the 15 mile, why not rename them after something besides a part of the female body. In someone’s stretch of imagination it’s probably “cutesy”, but rather juvenile and vulgar to most of us.
We could go with twin buttes or elk buttes or antelope buttes or even horned toad buttes instead. And yes, I’ve caught horned lizards out there while chasing rattlesnakes and sage grouse.
Anyone with a brain and a nodding acquaintance with white folks’ mindsets from the frontier period understands that calling an aboriginal, Amerindian, or tribal woman, (your call) a “squaw” is tantamount to calling those women female dogs. Nomenclature that has it’s proper place in the scheme of thing linguistic, but, as used 100 years ago or even more currently is primarily used as a reference to a canine female in heat and about as insulting a comparison as a person could come up with for a female of any ethnicity.
And, as far as Red’s Hill, again with apologies to Dewey, I honestly don’t know where or even what it is. But, the question occurs to me, why should we be ashamed of that name? It’s a descriptive name of ancient derivation, a common nick name even currently, and even a proper name. Remember Eric the Red? One among many of history’s contributors whose hair was red and whose leadership and personality was glorified by the name. He was an outstanding Viking leader and world explorer who may or may not, depending on whose research you believe, have traversed these prairies and mountains long before the Spanish arrived on the scene.
Then you have the historical Celts, (Pronounced Kelts), from antiquity. A vibrant tribe of red-haired, green-eyed people who traveled and traded and yes, warred across the globe centuries before Christ came upon the scene. Their progeny are spread from the sand dunes of the Sahara throughout Asia minor and Asia major to remote Turkish villages and across the sea to those delightfully picturesque Emerald Isles and even deep into the interior of South America, long before the Mediterranean explorers of any note sewed their first sail cloth.
So, outwardly a fitting and descriptive name, requiring no long winded explanation.
If red is the color of the hill, it is also the color of the life-blood that flows through most mammals, including our species, and is also the color used to describe the depth of heart-felt emotions, of deepest rage, of a sunset before a windy day, of a decent bottle of grape or even the inexpensive, “Dago Red”, and even includes the most popular color of a used motor vehicle these days. So much so that the color is referred to by used car salesmen as “resale Red”.
Aside from that, from a personal standpoint, it’s a name I can live with.