Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 26, 2010

Mt. Diablo won't be renamed 'Mt. Reagan,' supervisors rule

Contra Costa board says 'overwhelming support' of community wants to keep historical name

Contra Costa County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday in opposition of changing the name of "Mount Diablo'' to "Mount Reagan" in honor of former president and California governor Ronald Reagan.

The board's vote was in response to a petition from Oakley resident Arthur Mijares, who said that he is a Christian and to him the name "Devil" for the mountain is "derogatory, pejorative, offensive, obscene, blasphemous and profane."

The U.S. Board on Geographical Names, which would make the decision on whether to change the name, had asked the supervisors to give their opinion on the proposed change.

The supervisors agreed to write a letter to the Board on Geographical Names stating that they oppose any change to the name because of the overwhelming support from the community of keeping the name Mount Diablo, the historical significance of the name and the financial implications of a name change to local businesses and government agencies that use the name "Diablo" in their titles.

According to the conservation group Save Mount Diablo, the reference to "diablo" or the devil can be traced back to 1805 when Spanish military troops were searching for runaway Mission Indians. The soldiers found a camp of Chupcan people and surrounded it, but during the night, the Indians escaped without notice into the thick brush. The foiled soldiers called the site "Monte del Diablo" or "Thicket of the Devil."

Later, English-speaking settlers mistakenly assumed that the name "monte" meant "mountain" and called the mountain "Mount Diablo."

Benjamin Medel, who said he is a descendent of the Miwok tribe that lived in Contra Costa County, said he was in favor of renaming the peak, in part because the name to him represents the historic mistreatment of American Indians.

However, he suggested the new name reflect the mountain's historical ties to the Miwok tribe.

The petition to change the mountain's name is Mijares' second attempt. In 2005, he petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographical Names to change the name to "Mount Yahweh." The board also considered the names "Mount Miwok" and "Mount Ohlone," but ultimately decided against changing the name after hearing opposition from county supervisors, the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names and numerous local organizations, many of which use the name "Diablo" in their titles.

--Bay City News

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