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‘Tava Quad’ Named

Armstrong Quad has become “Tava Quad.”

At its February meeting, the Colorado College Board of Trustees unanimously and enthusiastically approved naming Tava Quad in response to a request from the indigenous and native peoples of CC. “Tava” means “Sun Mountain,” and is the name used by the Tabegauche Band of the Ute People for Pikes Peak.

The area designated as Tava Quad is bounded by Cascade Avenue, Armstrong Hall, South Hall, Shove Chapel, Palmer Hall, and Tutt Library, and is currently known informally as Armstrong Quad. The college will plan signage and other improvements to Tava Quad and consult with Ute tribal members regarding naming and blessing events.

In Fall 2017, a group of native faculty and staff began meeting to discuss the process for reclaiming space on the Colorado College campus that honors and is named after indigenous peoples. Felix Sanchez ’93 (Diné), an alumnus and the assistant vice president for communications at the college, was part of this group, as was Christina Leza (Yaqui/Chicana), associate professor, Dwanna McKay (Mvskoke), assistant professor, Polly Nordstrand (Hopi), curator of Southwest arts at the Fine Arts Center, and Natanya Pulley (Diné), assistant professor.

“ ‘Tava’ has been used in college, city, and regional contexts as reference to the Ute word for Pikes Peak,” says Sanchez. “We recognized that several tribes have historically utilized the land where CC is now located, so rather than determine which one should have prominence for a named space after their tribe, we felt ‘Tava’ had a lot of historical, cultural, and shared reference. We also didn’t think this initiative would get much traction unless students were involved, so we introduced the proposal to NASU that same semester.” NASU is CC’s Native American Student Union.

“The college is engaged in naming spaces on campus regularly, and as far as institutions of higher education go, spaces are normally named after wealthy or renowned white donors, educators, or alumni, which is fine,” Sanchez says. “I help produce signs on campus, and for some time, at the back of my mind, I wondered if one of these signs would also ever be made for an indigenous person or group. I didn’t want it to be ‘someday,’ when the will and the power to name a space could happen now, especially since the college is embarking on a significant anti-racist initiative.”

A formal request for the renaming of a campus space was sent to the president and other campus leaders in October 2018. The request was presented at the November 2018 meeting of the Board of Trustees, who provided preliminary approval. Sanchez provided an updated proposal — which included the entire Armstrong Quad as a possibility and a preference for the space to have a clear view of the mountain — to President Jill Tiefenthaler and Board Chair Susie Burghart ’77 on November 30, during a presentation for indigenous and native peoples of CC and other campus members. This final proposal was then presented to the board in February 2019, which they approved.

There will be some physical changes made to the newly named Tava Quad. Preliminary plans call for a major sign that defines “Tava” for the campus community and visitors, as well as smaller signs around the perimeter that present Ute words for various objects. In addition, a garden will be planned with native students who can then harvest traditional sacred plants like cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco. Proposed new walkways may be installed in the form of a circular shape around the quad to reflect the group’s initial request to find a circular space on campus for the name.

The name change will be announced publicly to visitors during Commencement 2019. According to Sanchez, a blessing and renaming ceremony is expected to take place during Homecoming 2019, along with an invitation for as many native alumni to attend as possible. Sanchez says he is also contacting the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes to participate in the ceremony and to provide the blessing.

Sanchez says he feels incredibly humble and proud about the designation of Tava Quad.

“I feel each native who is tied to their families, their communities, their traditions, and their histories has an intention to do something honorable for their peoples and their ancestors. The importance of achieving the name change directly affects the experience of indigenous and native peoples who are currently attending CC, and will also impact any person who comes to CC to learn, teach, and work — the utilization of an indigenous word will be a daily occurrence on campus. One philosophy we natives have is that we do not engage in work that benefits only us today in this moment, but is pursued for the generations to come.”