Focusing on the tough issues
WASHINGTON (AP) — The renewed national scrutiny of the Confederate flag has officials again considering changing the name of Utah’s Negro Bill Canyon, though the title that some find offensive is a point of historical pride for others.
Grand County Councilwoman Mary McGann said the name of the picturesque canyon in southern Utah is outdated at best.
“We should evolve,” she said Wednesday.
She’s planning to ask the council to recommend a name change to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names as soon as Aug. 4.
The Moab canyon is named for William Granstaff, a black cowboy who ran cattle there in the 1870s. Landmarks named for white historical figures aren’t generally prefaced by race, McGann said, and the canyon should bear his last name instead.
But Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake City chapter of the NAACP, says the name isn’t offensive. She’s drumming up support to keep the name that makes it clear the canyon is named for a black historical figure.
“We don’t want to lose the history,” she said. She’d like to see the council tackle other issues facing black residents instead, like housing discrimination. Though her group supported changing the name from a more derogatory word decades ago, they’ve opposed other efforts over the years to make a wholesale revision.
One of those pushes was led by Moab resident Louis Williams. His research shows William Granstaff never went by Bill, and he’s dug up history that shows his last name was actually spelled with a “d” after the “n.” The current name doesn’t honor the pioneer’s story, he said, and it should be renamed as Grandstaff Canyon.