Thursday, August 18, 2022
Aug. 18, 2022

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Squaw Island in the Columbia River near Ridgefield to be renamed

U.S. Department of the Interior seeks public input on new name

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Clark County’s little known and hard-to-find Squaw Island will soon have a new name. The island is among 18 sites in Washington with geographic names considered derogatory to Indigenous women slated for renaming.

The sites are spread across 14 counties statewide: Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania and Stevens.

Clark County residents still have the chance to weigh in on what the new name should be before the U.S. Department of the Interior’s 60-day comment period closes April 25. The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday to finalize its comments to the federal agency and is seeking public comment prior to the meeting. Comments can be emailed to bogn@dnr.wa.gov or offered during the committee meeting.

The state’s efforts reflect a growing trend to change Native-inspired place names from slurs or markers of European colonization to names that reflect Indigenous people’s language, history, culture and mapmaking.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, in November formally declared the term “squaw” derogatory and initiated a process to remove the word from use by the federal government and to replace other existing derogatory place names. Haaland created a 13-member Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force composed of members from the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and several other government agencies, which was tasked with surveying federal sites and generating new name alternatives.

“Words matter, particularly 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. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.”

In March, the Department of the Interior proposed new names for 660 geographic features across the country, including mountains, rivers, lakes, remote islands and others.

More details and information on Washington’s efforts, including a list of features sorted by county, can be found on the Board of Natural Resources page under the About tab at www.dnr.wa.gov.

Information on the policies and procedures of the committee can be found in the same location.

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