Wildflowers bloom near the base of Piestewa Peak in Phoenix in 2013. The mountain was renamed in 2003 from Sq— Peak because the word “sq—” is a derogatory term. There are still 67 places on federal lands in Arizona that use that term, and all will be renamed because of an order by the U.S. Department of Interior. Photo by Aznaturalist | Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0. Courtesy of the Arizona Mirror.
The Department of the Interior’s Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force published a list of replacement names for the geographic features with the name “sq***,” which was officially declared a derogatory term last year by Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.
“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.”
Haaland declared last November that “squaw” is a derogatory term and ordered that it be removed from any geographic feature on federal lands, which will rename 67 locations in Arizona, according to a story in the Arizona Mirror.
“Deb Haaland’s move to remove a well-known racist and derogatory term that sexualizes Indigenous women from everyday government use is incredibly powerful and long overdue,” Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly said at the time. Cázares-Kelly is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the first Native American to hold a countywide seat in Pima County, the Mirror wrote.
There are currently 664 federal land units that contain the term, according to a database maintained by the Board on Geographic Names. In Arizona, there are 67 that are tied to various geographic features like summits, valleys, streams and reservoirs.
The database related to “sq***”shows only one term in Florida, a reference to “Sq*** Pond in Marion County, in Central Florida.
Federal land units include the National Forest System land, the National Park System, the National Wilderness Preservation System, the National Landscape Conservation System, and the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Per the secretarial order, the task force established a list of candidate geographic names to replace those declared derogatory by the order and the names will be open for public comment until April 25, according to the federal register document.
“A list of five candidate names for each feature was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey,” Derogatory Names Task Force Chair Michael Tischler wrote in the federal register document. “The candidate replacement names were derived through a search of nearby named geographic features until at least five nearby names were available. The candidate replacement name will replace the derogatory modifier.”
An example of the replacement name candidates would be, if “Castle Creek” is the closest named feature to the geographic feature “Sq*** Mesa,” then the first candidate replacement name for the feature would be “Castle Mesa,” according to the federal register document.
The candidate replacement names can be found in the federal register under “Reconciliation of Derogatory Geographic Names,” and it is currently in the tribal consultations and a public comment period.
“Throughout this process, broad engagement with Tribes, stakeholders, and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion,” Haaland said in a statement.
This period allows the task forces to seek additional replacement names and feedback from tribes and the public, according to the Interior Department. The task force will prioritize these names in its review and provide a final recommendation for the Board on Geographic Names to vote on.
“Replacement names, to the extent possible, shall adhere to the Board on Geographic Names Principles, Policies, and Procedures for the Domestic Names Committee,” Tischler wrote in the federal register document. “Replacement names proposed during the public comment period that are in clear violation of an existing policy will not be considered by the Task Force.”
Before the implementation of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, the Interior Department stated that changes to derogatory names for geographic features were submitted as a proposal to the Board on Geographic Names, which then worked through its deliberative process.
The Board on Geographic Names received 261 proposals to replace geographic features with sq*** in the name in the past 20 years, according to the department.
The 13-member task force includes representatives from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.
Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report, which was written earlier by the Arizona Mirror, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom which includes the Florida Phoenix.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.