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By Ellen Gerst
Casper Star-Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Wyoming places undergo name changes; Federal effort looks to remove slur aimed at Indigenous women

 

September 15, 2022



CASPER — More than 40 Wyoming places now have new names, after a federal effort to remove a slur aimed at Indigenous women from federal landmarks.

The term “squaw” has historically been used, often derogatorily, as an ethnic and sexist slur. The Department of the Interior, under the leadership of Laguna Pueblo member Secretary Deb Haaland, issued an order last year calling for more than 650 public places in the United States that use the term to be renamed.

The department also replaced the term with “sq___” in official communications.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” Haaland said in a statement Thursday.

Haaland is the first Indigenous person to serve in a cabinet position in the U.S.

Forty-one places in Wyoming now have new names. About a third of those are creeks, including the waterway west of Casper that has now been dubbed Platte Creek, for the river it empties into.

A Carbon County canyon with the offensive name is now known as Continental Divide Canyon. The site known as “Sq___ Teats” outside Meeteetse is now Crow Woman Buttes.

Several new site names in Wyoming also borrow terms from Indigenous languages, such as Kuchunteka’a Toyavi for a peak in Park County, Pannaite Naokwaide for a well-traveled creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Tuka Naa’iya Po’I Hunu’u for a canyon in Teton County.

The new names will go into effect immediately, according to a statement from the department Thursday.

Haaland’s order created a task force that included representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and other federal agencies. Local naming boards were able to make recommendations, but most of the renaming happened on the federal level.

Tribal governments of “nearly” 70 tribes also participated in nation-to-nation consultations, resulting in “several hundred” recommendations for new names, Thursday’s statement said.

Many of the new names come from nearby landmarks, including mountains, streams or springs.

A full list of names changed under this order, as well as a map with each location, is available on the U.S. Geographical Survey website.

Before the Interior’s order, just one federal place with the derogatory term in its name — a lake in Yellowstone National Park — had been changed in Wyoming, to Indian Pond in 1981.

In June, a Yellowstone peak named after an Army lieutenant who led a massacre of Native Americans was renamed to First Peoples Mountain, after an unanimous vote by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

“Names that still use derogatory terms are an embarrassing legacy of this country’s colonialist and racist past,” said John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, in a statement following Haaland’s announcement. “It is well-past time for us, as a nation, to move forward, beyond these derogatory terms, and show Native people — and all people — equal respect.”

 
 

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