Two new dormitories on the University of Colorado Boulder campus will not be renamed using traditional Arapaho Hinono’ei spelling, university officials said.
The plan, which was approved in November 2013, was to name Kittredge West “Nowoo3 Hall” and Kittredge Central “Houusoo Hall,” but a proposal now asks that the pair be named Niwot Hall and Little Raven Hall—rejecting the Hinono’ei spelling.
Nowoo3, pronounced “Na-waath,” is Arapaho for Chief Niwot or Left Hand. Houusoo, pronounced “Ho-sah,” is Chief Little Raven, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. The Arapaho allegedly spent winters in Boulder and the renaming of the dorms are meant to honor the area’s original inhabitants, officials said.
In an email to ICTMN, CU Spokesman Ryan Huff said the university believes the names Niwot Hall and Little Raven Hall will be more easily recognizable to all parties on campus.
“We suggested these names to the Regents last week because we believe they will be more easily recognized and referenced to by students, visitors and emergency responders,” Huff wrote. “Per guidance from the Regents, we will continue working with the descendants and other interested parties to make the best recommendation that honors their ancestors.”
Descendant of Chief Little Raven Ava Hamilton has been working with the university on the renaming of the dorms, the Daily Camera reports. And although Hamilton allegedly ponders why both English and Hinono’ei spellings weren’t suggested for use, she is still appreciative of the recognition.
“At least their intentions are really good to name and recognize the people who once lived in this area and whose land and homeland this is,” Hamilton told the Daily Camera.
In a letter to the University Planning Board, Native American professors and faculty involved in the renaming urged the university to use the traditional Hinono’ei spelling.
“We also want to be clear that using the Native names in the Arapaho/Hinonon’ei language is absolutely vital, in order for CU Boulder to follow current practices in naming buildings to honor Native peoples,” the letter reads. “Neither phonetic spellings (Hosa, Niwot) nor literal translations (Little Raven, Left Hand) of these options seems culturally sensitive and attuned to the unique political status of Native Americans and Arapahos in Colorado, specifically.”
For the Native American student body on campus, there is an issue of accuracy.
Jesse Zamora, Rarámuri (Tarahumara), a junior and a member of the Oyate Native American Student Organization at CU Boulder, told ICTMN that it’s widely expected of a university to be as accurate as possible in all matters and he wonders why administrators would be so blatantly inaccurate with the translations.
Little Raven is the literal English translation of Houusoo, yet Niwot, he said, is a mispronounced phonetic version of Nowoo3.
“Overall, it’s a bit disappointing,” he said. “Personally, I believe the university is at fault for this. I understand that they are trying to simplify it. At an academic institution, you would expect accuracy.”
According to Zamora, there is currently a dorm on campus named for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people, aptly named Cheyenne Arapaho Hall. But, he said, students there have “bastardized” the name and refer to the building as “Shy-Ho.” He said he’s concerned the same offensive name clipping will happen with Niwot and Little Raven halls.
Zamora said regarding the renaming of the new dorms, he feels the university is “stepping away from a chance to demonstrate cultural sensitivity” and accuracy.
“I still see it as a lack of respect. It’s in right direction, but it’s not on target. It’s not on point. If they really, truly want to respect the people who lived here in the Boulder area they should use the proper spelling.”