(NEXSTAR) – Federal officials have released a list of possible replacement names for more than 660 geographic features in the U.S. that currently have “squaw” in the name. It’s the latest step in the process to remove derogatory terms from the names of federal lands.
In a November order, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland declared “squaw” a derogatory term. She also began the process to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. The list of those features to be renamed was released Tuesday.
Experts have said the word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant “woman. Over time, it became a term “used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women,” federal officials explained.
A database maintained by the Board on Geographic Names reports there are more than 650 federal lands containing that term in their names.
“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Throughout this process, broad engagement with Tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”
The agency is planning three virtual meetings to consult with tribes in March, and written comments will be accepted through April 24.
A 13-member Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force is now recommending replacements for those geographic features that still have “sq—” in their names. It also will be up to the task force to prioritize the list of replacement names and make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names before it meets later this year.
The U.S. Geological Survey has released a list of five candidate names for each feature. The more than 660 sites are scattered throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and many other states.
Replacements for Florida’s Squaw Pond, for example, include Gardners Praire, Forts Bear Hole, Greens Bear Hole, Indian Praire, and Sellers Praire.
Proposals for renaming some sites have already been submitted to the Board on Geographic Names. Among those are multiple features in Utah’s Duchesne County, which have submitted proposals seeking to replace “Squaw” with “Native” to create “Native Basin,” “Native Basin Creek,” “Native Lake,” and “Native Peak.”
You can see the full list of recommended replacements here.
According to the Department of the Interior, the Task Force will recommend replacements for all of the features to the Board on Geographic Names in the coming months, starting from the list of five candidate names.
Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Board on Geographic Names have previously nixed other derogatory terms. In the 1960s and 70s, derogatory terms related to Black and Japanese people were eliminated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.