The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it will move to change the names of 660 "geographic features" containing terms described as being derogatory and sexist, such as "squaw."
"I am grateful to the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force for their work to ensure that racist names like 'sq__' no longer have a place on our federal lands. I look forward to the results of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names vote, and to implement changes as soon as is reasonable," Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release from the agency Friday.
In November 2019, Haaland issued an order that established a process to review and replace derogatory names of the nation's more than 650 federally owned "geographic features" containing the term, which is seen as a slur to Native American women.
"Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation's lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage — not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression," Haaland said at the time. "Today's actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial."
A 13-member Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force established in February performed the review, and launched a public comment period, garnering some 6,000 comments from the public and another 300 from "nation-to-nation" consultations, the agency said.
This week the task force, which included members from federal land management agencies, and diversity, equity, and inclusion representatives, provided replacement names to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names which will vote on the recommendation in September.
The Board on Geographic Names was started with an executive order in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison as a way to maintain uniform geographic names throughout the federal government and is comprised of representatives from federal agencies engaged with geographic information, population, ecology, and public land management, according to the agency.
According to the agency, derogatory names have been "comprehensively" replaced throughout history, and several states, including Montana, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota, have already passed laws prohibiting the use of the term in naming places.
Congress is also considering federal legislation prohibiting derogatory names on geographic features and public lands, according to the agency.
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