WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior has announced a list of candidate replacement names for more than 660 geographic features with the name “squaw,” which was officially declared a derogatory term as a result of Secretary’s Order 3404. The department has initiated tribal consultations and an opportunity for public comment to recommend and review proposed replacement names.
Secretary’s Order 3404 established the 13-member Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, which includes representatives from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation, and U.S. Geological Survey. The Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service is also a member. The Task Force’s first action was to finalize a decision to replace a full spelling of the derogatory term with “sq___” for all official related communications.
“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue. Throughout this process, broad engagement with tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”
Prior to the implementation of the task force, changes to derogatory names for geographic features were submitted as a proposal to the Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which then worked through its deliberative process. The BGN has received 261 proposals to replace geographic features with sq___ in the name in the past 20 years.
Under SO 3404, the task force will recommend replacements for more than 660 geographic features to the BGN in a matter of months, starting from a list of five candidate names for each individual feature. This process stands to significantly advance and accelerate the name change process across the nation.
Tribal consultations and public comment period announced in the Federal Register will give the task force the chance to seek additional candidate names and feedback from tribes and the public. The task force will prioritize these names in its review and provide a final recommendation for the BGN to vote on when it convenes later this year.