Department of the Interior officially removes Native American slurs from 28 Colorado sites

The US Department of the Interior has officially approved 28 replacement names for geographic features in Colorado that once used a slur for Native women, as part of an effort to replace nearly 650 such places nationwide.

The Geographic Names Board’s approval on September 8 is the final step in the process to remove sq*** from federal use. The word has historically been used as a slur for Native and Native American women, according to the department.

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Removing the word has been a goal of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland since November 2021 when she established the process to remove it from the names of geographical features such as waterways, mountains, valleys and other features. geographical.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. It starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have adorned federal sites for far too long,” Haaland said in a statement. “I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Working Group and the Geographic Names Board for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we show why representation matters and chart the course for an inclusive America. »

Renamings range from including historically significant Indigenous references to including nods to local flora and fauna. In Colorado, a pass in Clear Creek County was renamed the Mestaa’ėhehe Pass in honor of a prominent Native woman in state history, Owl Woman. A mountain in Routt County will be known as the Petite Tetons at the suggestion of local ranchers. A peak in Dolores County was renamed Sego Point after a local lily.

The US Geological Survey website has a full list of names and a map of sites.

The Alliance of Indigenous Organizers applauded the conclusion of the nearly year-long process.

“This racist, sexist and demeaning term for Indigenous peoples has no place in our public spaces and has harmed our people for decades. Our Indigenous women are caregivers, knowledge keepers and the backbone of our communities. They deserve and have demanded better. We are pleased to see the federal government take action to remove this word from use,” Executive Director Judith LeBlanc said in a statement, noting that Haaland is in a unique position as an Indigenous woman to understand why the word is harmful.

The Derogatory Geographic Names Working Group included representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environment, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the US Geological Survey and the US Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture.