‘Squaw’ is designated an offensive term and will be removed from federal place names
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has announced that derogatory place names will be reviewed and replaced.
Ms Haaland also declared “squaw” to be a derogatory term and ordered the Board on Geographic Names to remove the term from federal usage, according to a DOI press release.
“Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” said Ms Haaland.
She added: “Today’s actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial.”
The press release said the term “squaw” is derogatory and has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.
There are currently more than 650 federal land units that contain the term, according to a database maintained by the Board on Geographic Names.
A new task force will be responsible for finding replacement names, and will be engaging with Tribes, diversity experts and the public to come up with alternatives. A committee has also been created to “broadly solicit, review, and recommend changes to other derogatory geographic and federal land unit names.”
Several states have already passed legislation prohibiting the use of the word “squaw” in place names, including Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota.
There is also legislation pending in both chambers of Congress to address derogatory names on geographic features on public land.