Religious California Man Wants Federal Government to Rename Mount Diablo To Something Less Demonic
OAKLEY, Calif. Apr 14, 2005 — An Oakley man has asked the federal government to rename Mount Diablo, saying the current name, which means devil in Spanish, is offensive to his religious sensibilities.
Art Mijares applied to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for the change and suggests naming the mountain Mount Kawukum, which he believes has American Indian roots.
“Words have power, and when you start mentioning words that come from the dark side, evil thrives,” Mijares told the Contra Costa Times. “When I take boys camping on the mountain, I don’t even like to say its name. I have to explain what the name means. Why should we have a main feature of our community that celebrates the devil?”
To make the change, Mijares would need to persuade federal, state and local governments that it’s necessary. That may be easier said than done.
It’s been called Mount Diablo for at least 164 years, and references to the mountain permeate thousands of maps, books and historical documents.
The name Kawukum first surfaced in 1866, when a church group tried to change Mount Diablo’s name for reasons nearly identical to Mijares’, according to San Francisco Bay area researcher Bev Ortiz.
“We abhor the wicked creature to whom the name is appropriate, and spurn the use of the name for anything noble or good on earth,” proclaimed the Congregational Church of San Francisco in its newsletter of the day.
The church proposed Kawukum, spelled then as Kahwookum, “a word learned from an unidentified Indian living at the base of the mountain,” Ortiz wrote in a history of the mountain’s name. Members presented a name-change petition to the Legislature, but lawmakers postponed a decision indefinitely.
The name Mount Diablo grew from the Spanish name given to an Indian village set near a willow thicket in modern-day Concord, where Chupcans staged a daring nighttime escape during an 1805 military campaign.
Spanish soldiers said Indians evaded them only with the help of evil spirits and named the site “Monte del Diablo,” or thicket of the devil, which American explorers later mistakenly applied to the mountain.