Biden admin renames 5 posts that used ‘harmful’ term for Native American women

Deb Haaland

The Department of the Interior announced Thursday that a board had voted to rename five places in states across the country that previously included a racist term for a Native American woman.

In a statement, the department noted that the Geographical Names Board had voted on final replacement names for nearly 650 geographic features, but said an additional review had been completed for seven locations that “are considered unincorporated populous places.”

Of those seven, the five renamed locations are located in California, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

The changes came after a year-long process to remove the historically offensive word “squaw” from geographic place names across the country.

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Home Secretary Deb Haaland visits Camp Amache Cemetery in Grenada, Colorado, on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022.
(Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

“Words matter, especially as we work to ensure our nation’s public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Home Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographical Names Task Force and the Geographical Names Council for their efforts to finalize the removal of this harmful word. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path to an inclusive America.”

Two places in Alaska and Wyoming were removed from consideration.

The list of all new names will be updated on the US Geological Survey website.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a press conference on July 22, 2021, in Denver.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a press conference on July 22, 2021, in Denver.
(AP photo/David Zalubowski, archive)

In North Dakota, the new name Homesteaders Gap was chosen as a nod to the community’s local history, although area residents were divided.

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Two other newly named places are the communities of Loybas Hill in California’s Central Valley, which translates as “Young”, and Yokuts Valley.

The others are Partridgeberry, Tennessee and Lynn Creek, Texas.

A statue of Simon Bolivar and Department of Interiors by Stewart Lee Udall, photographed on Friday, July 16, 2021, in Washington, DC

A statue of Simon Bolivar and Department of Interiors by Stewart Lee Udall, photographed on Friday, July 16, 2021, in Washington, DC
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The decision has long precedent, and the department ordered the renaming of places with derogatory terms for blacks and Japanese in 1962 and 1974, respectively.

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Notably, Haaland is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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