Lonely Planet Writer

An online campaign is raising awareness of the indigenous names of US mountains

A social media campaign is creating a digital footprint for the indigenous names of the USA’s mountain peaks.

You can tag Zion National Park with its indigenous name ‘Mukuntuweap’. Photo by Peter Kunasz/Shutterstock

Natives Outdoors was created in March 2017 by Len Necefer, an engineer and a member of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American-controlled land in the USA. Necefer is a climber himself and an idea came to him after a stint of scaling the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation.  When he shared his pictures on social media, he couldn’t find a tag with the indigenous names he was using. His solution was to create ones of his own.

Facebook users on the mobile app have the option to create their own location which is then saved in the system and accessible to all Facebook and Instagram users (which is why you’ll sometimes see duplicate geotags for the same place on your social media). Necefer began creating new geotags using names for the mountains given by local tribes and now they are available to use on social media.

The Great Smoky Mountains were originally known as Shaconage. Photo by Dave Allen Photography/Shutterstock

He has since expanded his project and has recruited other Native Americans to join in his climbs, is working with tribal governments and communities to have better access to outdoor recreational activities and helped design a series of activewear where a portion of the profits are donated to outdoor-focused projects run by Native Americans.

So far 40 new geotags have been created for the mountains in Colorado and hopes to bring the project further afield. As well as raising awareness about the original names of these mountain summits, the project hopes it will help revitalise the indigenous language and give greater visibility to the tribes that still call the land home.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore aka Gichigami. Photo by Posnov/Getty Images

“Once people see the names, they get curious,” Necefer told Outside Online. “It gives you just a little bit of information and can spark the interest in finding out more.”

Look out for these indigenous geotags on your next outdoor adventure:

Everglades National Park – Pa-hay-okee
Grand Canyon – Tsékooh Hatsoh
Yosemite Valley – Ahwahnee Land
Glacier National Park – Salish, Kootenai, and Pend D’oreilles Land
Bears Ears National Monument – Shash Jaa’