Energy & Environment

Interior Department removes anti-Native slur from usage in federal place names

Interior Secretary Haaland speaks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The Interior Department announced Thursday that it has completed the removal of a slur for Native American women from federal place names after announcing a review in November. 

In the announcement, the department said the federal Board on Geographic Names has voted on replacement names for more than 600 places that included the slur “squaw.” The department also issued a full map of places where names were replaced. 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold the position, announced the review late last year as well as a federal committee to assess the use of slurs and pejoratives in federal place names.

“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.

“I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board on Geographic Names for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.” 

The department’s Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force reviewed more than 1,000 recommendations for new names, considering issues like geographic features that cross tribal, federal and state jurisdictions and contradictory recommendations. In July, the department announced a further review of seven locations considered to be unincorporated populated places. 

The review followed similar moves to replace anti-Black and anti-Japanese slurs in place names, as well as earlier laws passed in Maine, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon prohibiting the use of “squaw” in place names. 

Haaland has announced a number of initiatives under the Interior umbrella aimed at strengthening federal-tribal relations and addressing Native issues. The department also announced a review last year of federal boarding schools, where hundreds of Native children were forcibly placed. 

Tags Deb Haaland Deb Haaland Interior Department place names

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