By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What’s in a name? Sometimes we make a mountain out of a molehill
mt diablo
A view heading up the southeast side of Mt. Diablo from nearby North Peak.

I do not have an issue with the name Mt. Diablo.

Arthur Mijares did.

He’s an Oakley resident who petitioned the United States Board on Geographical Names to change the proper noun given the 3,849-foot peak in the Diablo Range that’s a subdivision of the Coastal Ranges.

Come to think of it, Mijares also would find the name of the mountain range offensive as well.

The devil, you might say.


Mijares was offended by what Mt. Diablo translates into in English, which is Devil Mountain.

There are plenty of folks that survived the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm that wouldn’t argue the Diablo Winds — named after Mt. Diablo and the Northern California kissing cousin of the dry and dangerous Santa Ana Winds of Southern California — are aptly named.

The Devil Winds, as the English translation, lived up to their name. The winds fanned a firestorm that destroyed 2,843 single family homes, 437 apartments and condo units, and killed 25 people.

Mijares  as a Christian — indicated he was offended by the fact the mountain paid homage to the devil.

That isn’t exactly the case.

A devil worshipping sect didn’t name Mt. Diablo.

It was a group of Spanish military troops in 1805 searching for runaway native Californians from missions.

The mission was run by Father Junipero Serra.

Let’s see, Father Serra. Wasn’t he the guy saving the so-called uncivilized savages in the name of Christianity?

Now there are those who believe Father Serra was more of a devil to the good people of California than the name bestowed to a 3,849-foot prominence.

Mijares would disagree.

He viewed the mountain’s name of being “derogatory, pejorative, offensive, blasphemous, and profane.”


The dozen or so times I’ve hiked to the peak from starting parts at its base, the devil was the farthest thing from my mind.

While there were moments of borderline hell coming from the east up the sharpest gain to the summit on a 90-degree day in late May, the feeling I had for most of the day — and even on days of rain sloshing to the top — was one of almost heaven.

With all due respects to the late John Denver, Mt. Diablo is almost heaven. It would be complete heaven if it were a peak about 10,000 feet in the eastern Sierra.

I do digress.

This is a detour column to discuss wokeness run wild.

Mijares’ petition got tracks but it was eventually batted down by input from political agencies and others that were just fine with the devil they knew as a name.

That’s because the devil wasn’t getting his due.

Those Spanish soldiers had surrounded a camp of the runaway Chupcan people. But during the night, they escaped unnoticed into the nearby thick brush.

Apparently they felt a need to call the place “Monte del Diablo.” That’s Spanish for “Thicket of the Devil”.

Naturally, those that speak English that followed and settled in the area assumed “monte” was Spanish for “mountain”, hence Mt. Diablo.

There was no slur. No homage to the devil. No pagan rituals.

Just an appropriation of what another ethnicity group named something.

Wait, didn’t the Spanish do that to the various Californians — you know the ones Father Serra essentially enslaved to save their souls — ignore the names the Ohlones and Mi-Wuks gave the mountain?

Perhaps this name thing comes down to the original sin, so to speak.

By that, the only “right” name is what was bestowed on a place or a concept by the tongue spoken — or grunted — by the first of the species to inhabit a corner of the world.

That does bring us to the politically correct battle du jour — San Francisco Unified School District — to cleanse the word “chief” from all district personnel titles as it could be offensive to indigenous Americans.

They are the ones a clueless Christopher Columbus named Indians because he thought he had made it to the shores of India instead of sailing off the edge of the world.

Now it might surprise you that folks that pushed to cleanse the name of their schools of such evil doers as Dianne Feinstein and Abraham Lincoln are late to the party.

The debate about “chiefs” being offensive has been fought over the years in Canada and in  the Midwest. Each time the reaction to the debate of those they were hoping to un-offend were mixed.

It’s because “chief” is a European term with French roots that refers to someone in charge.

There have clearly been times when those that occupied this part of heaven before Europeans landed here that were referenced as chiefs were maligned and disrespected.

This is not to be dismissive to get rid of words that cut deep. I’m a native of Placer County and had a friend by the name of Randy Simmers when  I was an eighth grader set me straight about how offensive Squaw Valley was as a name to those that shared his bloodline that were here long before everyone else that makes up the American melting pot.

Attaching the name of “squaw” to a geographic point is no different than naming it after the “B-word”.

The word “chief”? I’m not too sure it’s that offensive.

Clearly someone will find it offensive just like someone found the name “Mt. Diablo” offensive.

Offense is in the perspective of the offender just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The question is whether every molehill should be projected into a mountain.

The problem is when we miss the mark we can make every slight into a chasm.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at