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Mt. KIA/MIS is on the map

Brief by Central Staff

Geography – November 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

A formerly nameless mountain in Saguache County is now Mt. KIA/MIA to honor American military personnel who were either “Killed In Action” (KIA) or “Missing In Action” (MIA). The peak is 11,293 feet high, and it rises along the divide between Silver and Starvation creeks in the Marshall Pass area.

The new name was approved on Oct. 4 by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, and it had the support of Saguache County, the State of Colorado, and the U.S. Forest Service. It was the culmination of years of work spearheaded by Bruce Salisbury of Aztec, N.M.

He wanted a memorial on the landscape to all KIAs and MIAs, and started by proposing that one of Colorado’s many Sheep Mountains (there are 29, more or less) be renamed.

The Geographic Names Board seldom approves changing an existing name, and this proposal was no exception. So then they started looking for unnamed elevations, and found this one.

Originally, the idea was to make it Mt. Kiamia. The U.S. Forest Service demurred, though, because that resembles a Ute name, even if it is really an English acronym. Thomas Givon, the linguist who created a written language for the southern Utes nearly 30 years ago, pointed out that “kiy-miy-vat” (“vat” is the Ute ending for a place name) could mean a place for departed warriors, and thus apt for the peak.

But in the end, the Board decided to accept “KIA/MIA” rather than “Kiamia” or the Ute rendition.

Salisbury advised us by email that “we are already getting questions about ‘dedicating the mountain.'”

His answer is that “it’s a work in progress,” because so many people were involved in the naming.

Since winter is closing in, the dedication ceremony will likely be next summer.