After a nearly year-long effort, an ethnic slur was finally removed from federal use in all geographic landmarks.
The term “squaw”, a pejorative name for a Native American woman, was removed from all federally used geographic features by the Department of the Interior. There were more than 650 landmarks that used the term nationwide, according to a US Board on Geographic Names database, including 32 located in Michigan.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “It starts with removing the racist and derogatory names that have adorned federal places for far too long.”
In Michigan, renowned sites are primarily lakes and streams scattered throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsula.
(Don’t see the map? Click here.)
Delta County has seen the most name changes for an area with four renamed sites – Squaw Point is now Mino-kwe Point, Little Squaw Creek is now Shki-kwe Creek, Squaw Creek is now South Mino-kwe Creek and a another Squaw Creek in the same county is now Nookomis kabekong.
Algiers, Calhoun, Lapeer, and Marquette County have the second highest number of renamed sites with three locations each having been updated.
(Don’t see the database? Click here.)
In November 2021, an order from Haaland’s secretariat officially declared the word a pejorative term and created the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force to officially begin removing it from federal use.
The word has roots in the Algonquian languages of native tribes in the northeastern United States and Canada, but has been used for centuries in a pejorative context to demean Native American women.
The Interior Department said the task force navigated complexities during the rebranding effort, such as evaluating multiple public or tribal recommendations for the same feature, features that crossed multiple jurisdictions. , the inconsistent spelling of some native language names, and the balancing of opinions of various proponents.
The task force received more than 1,000 recommendations from the public for name changes, according to the Home Office.
Although the new names are effective immediately for federal use, the public can continue to suggest name changes for any item through the initial process facilitated by the Geographic Names Board which acts on a case-by-case basis.
Derogatory names were previously identified and replaced by the Secretary of the Interior or the Geographic Names Board.
In 1962, then Home Secretary Stewart Udall identified the N-word as pejorative and ordered the Geographic Names Board to develop a policy to eliminate its use. In 1974, the Geographic Names Board identified a pejorative term for “Japanese” and eliminated its use.
Another executive order from the secretariat last November established a federal advisory committee for the Department of the Interior to formally receive public advice regarding additional overriding terms, overriding terms on federal land units, and the name reconciliation process. derogatory. The Home Office plans to announce the status of this committee in the coming weeks.
The national list of new names and map of locations can be found on the US Geological Survey website.
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