The US Department of Interior is creating a new task force to identify federal lands that contain slurs or derogatory terms and rename them, mirroring changes already made by sports franchises and private businesses in recent years.
The Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force will include representatives from federal land management agencies along with diversity, equity and inclusion experts, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Friday.
The process will include dialogue with tribes, state and local governments and the public, the department said, adding that it was now classifying the term ‘squaw’ – referring to an indigenous woman – as officially derogatory.
There are 600 federal land units with the name ‘squaw,’ according to the Native American Rights Fund, including Squaw Lakes in Oregon.
Other places named ‘negro,’ ‘wetback,’ and ‘Chinaman’ – all considered derogatory names for black, Latino and Asian people, respectively – will also likely be re-examined.
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The department is also creating an Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names that will include ‘Indian tribes, tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations, civil rights, anthropology, and history experts, and members of the general public.’
The proposal was put forth by Haaland, who became the first Native American cabinet member in US history when she was nominated by President Joe Biden and confirmed in March. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe of New Mexico.