U.S. government task force moves to alter place names containing racial slur

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Tuesday, officials from the United States federal government announced plans to rename hundreds of places on federal land whose names contain an anti-Native American slur, having produced five possible replacement names for each site. They plan to hold virtual discussions with Native American groups before recommending replacement names to the Board on Geographic Names later this year.

The 13 members of the Derogatory Names Task force includes individuals from the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, and Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights.

The word in question, "squaw," comes from the Algonquian word for "woman," but over the centuries it has become an insulting term for Native American or First Nations women. United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland had the term officially declared derogatory last November.

"Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue," said Haaland. "Throughout this process, broad engagement with tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion." Haaland is the first Native American to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.

The geographic sites are located in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, California, and seven other states. This is not the first step in the movement to remove this term from place-names. Some time ago, a ski resort near the California-Nevada border renamed itself "Palisades Tahoe" in a move commended by the Washoe people: "The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the Native people, of the Washoe people," Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office said last summer. "It's a constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It's a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else and we don't agree with it."

The task force plans to accept comments from the public both by mail and through the site Regulations.gov.