Interior Dept To Strip Derogatory Slur Used on Many Federal Sites

There are at least 660 geographic features on federal land across the country that contain the word “squaw.” The origin of the word is believed to be rooted in the Algonquin word for “woman” but over decades and centuries came to be a catch-all slur for Indigenous women. Back in 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland organized a group to trace the use of the word in federal lands with the goal of eventually rooting it out.

Haaland has now given the go-ahead to begin finding replacement names for those hundreds of sites.

“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Haaland said. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.”

“The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the Native people, of the Washoe people,” said Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office. “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 Department of the Interior will now begin consulting with the public and Indigenous tribes to come up with new names. The list of the 660 sites that will be subject to the name change is here. And public comment can be left here.

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