These 50 Utah sites use a slur for Native women; here are their possible new names

From springs and creeks to flats and hollows, canyons to buttes to peaks, 50 Utah geographic features on federal lands use the word “squaw,” a racial slur for Native American women.

But that will soon change, after the Department of the Interior announced on February 22 that the 660 items bearing the pejorative term in the United States would be renamed.

An initial list of replacement ideas was listed for each, derived from a search for nearby geographic features. For example, “Sq— Peak” in Provo might be renamed “Rock Peak”, after nearby Rock Canyon.

Click on each marker in the map below to see other suggested substitutions for the word. Indian Sq—Rock in western Utah could become Middle Canyon Rock or Toms Creek Rock, in another example.

Until April 25, the ministry is collecting public comments and suggestions for alternatives to the list of candidates for the department. You can submit comments on by entering “DOI-2022-0001” in the search bar and including the ID number of the feature included in the list.

Davina Smith, Diné organizer and tribal coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association, said she was working with the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, state and tribal leaders on the need to change those names.

“To give historical context regarding the word ‘squaw’, it derives from the Algonquin language, it may once have simply meant ‘woman’, but over generations from the 1600s the word evolved into a misogynistic and racist term for humiliating Indigenous women by non-Indigenous people,” Smith said. “Since then, Indigenous women like me have had to endure verbal abuse and trauma…until now.

Rupert Steele, president of the Goshute Confederated Tribes, said the term has long been associated with Native American women, and sometimes men, as sex objects. Its use further dehumanizes them, he said, a contributing factor to the rampant violence known as missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“We want this name removed from those [geographic features]to protect our identity and not be used as a derogatory expression, whenever there is a disagreement with American Indians,” Steele said.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland kicked off the process by declaring the name a pejorative term in November and directing the Geographic Names Board — the federal agency responsible for naming geographic locations — to implement procedures to remove the term in federal usage.

As stated in Haaland Secretarial Order 3404the Home Office has suggested five candidate names to replace the liaison in the name of each feature.

“Words matter, especially in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Haaland said in a statement.

The tribes will have “broad engagement” with the 13-member Geographic Derogatory Names Task Force, which will review proposals for new names, Haaland said. Tribes like the Goshute Confederated Tribes and non-profit organizations like Ute Land Trust are supporting the renaming of features by harnessing indigenous knowledge and connections to the tribes that each have names for these landmarks.

Braidan Weeks, executive director of the Ute Land Trust, said Haaland serving as secretary makes those efforts easier to talk about in the American consciousness because she herself is Indigenous.

The mission of Ute Land Trust, established in 2018 by the Ute Indian Tribe Affairs Committee, is to help heal the deep wounds left by the injustice of the removal of the Ute from their lands in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Weeks said.

The Utes once lived in the Utah Valley, and a common explanation of the name Sq___ Peak centers on an Ute woman jumping from the peak. But when it comes to the story around the peak and similar explanations at other sites, Weeks said, in those cases the natives themselves probably don’t know the story behind the name.

“By sort of working between Western society and Indigenous society, you kind of start to learn, if nobody in the Indigenous community really knows that story, then it’s probably not an Indigenous story,” he said. -he declares. “It’s probably something that arose or arose about Native people, but wasn’t actually Native people.”

The number of places that need to be changed in Utah is not surprising, he said, and name change efforts have been ongoing for many years. He recommends that the public submit comments that reinforce the need to work with the tribes and names they recommend.

In southern Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association has identified eight uses of insult on public lands in or near San Juan County and Bears Ears National Monument, and six uses in or near the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, in both Garfield and Kane counties.

The name is used for springs, canyons, plains, lakes, valleys, a pillar, a summit, a bench and a stream in the region.

The Department of the Interior has not asked the state to come up with alternate names, said Dustin Jansen, director of Utah’s Indian affairs division. The state has identified 56 Utah features that use the term.

Jansen worked with Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, to develop a process for renaming sites as part of SB10, which passed in the 2021 legislative session. The bill came after a nationwide reckoning of landmarks, place names and markings considered racist or offensive and after the Utahns worked for several years to change the name of the peak above Provo.

Prior to the creation of the new Federal Task Force, the requested name changes were submitted to the Geographic Names Board. The Indian Affairs Division has worked to facilitate this process, Jansen said, including developing templates for individuals and groups to send to the council.

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