2 mountains formerly known as Suicide Peaks gets new Dena’ina name
The north and south peaks have been renamed Yuyanq’ Ch’ex
PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The renaming of Anchorage’s North and South Suicide Peaks has officially been approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in a unanimous vote that occurred on Oct. 13. The new name, Yuyanq’ Ch’ex, is derived from the Dena’ina language meaning “heaven’s breath” or “breath from above.”
The move was made after Bill Pagaran, President of the non-profit Carry the Cure, lobbied for the change over two years ago upon learning the desolate, now former, name.
“As someone that works in suicide prevention, I was horrified,” Pagaran said. “In the state where we have two, three, even four times the national average of suicide in our villages.”
Pagaran credits the overwhelming support from local organizations and Alaskan residents to the name change getting approved.
“This was definitely not an individual effort,” Pagaran stated. “There’s so many people that were so quick to sign in support of this name change.”
The name Yuyanq’ Ch’ex was gifted by elder Helen Dick, who according to Pagaran, is one of the only fluent speakers of Dena’ina alive in the state.
Throughout his efforts, Pagaran yielded an impressive amount of letters in support from organizations across the state. He also received over 1,500 signatures on a change.org petition. Pagaran’s progress did not go unnoticed by his son, Reign.
“I’ve been inspired by him for his passion to be able to pursue anything he’s doing, and more importantly for his heart for the community,” Reign said.
Reign knew the board had approved the renaming after Pagaran came home the day the vote was scheduled and immediately hugged his son.
“I was in a state of disbelief,” Reign recalled. “I know all the positive change to Alaskans that can come as a result of this name change.”
Both Pagaran and Reign wanted the name of the twin Chugach Mountains to reflect hope over tragedy in regard to its people.
“If we as Alaskans, with the names of our geographical features, have potential to make a statement reflecting Alaska — like what is Alaska to someone from Colorado or someone from California who comes in and visits,” Reign said. “We want to reflect what our intentions are as Alaskans and what we hope for the mental state of our people.”
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