Interior Department completes vote to remove derogatory names from several locations

by Jan 23, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments

WASHINGTON  —  The Department of the Interior announced recently the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has voted on the remaining replacement names featuring the word sq___. In September, the Department announced the final vote for nearly 650 features, but completed an additional review for seven locations that are considered unincorporated populated places.

Skiers enjoy Sq_ _ Valley in California which will now be known as Yokuts Valley following a recent decision by the Department of Interior Board on Geographic Names to replace names featuring the word sq_ _ . (Photo by Nick Windsor)

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

The vote came after a year-long process to remove a term from federal use that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women. Noting that there are unique concerns with renaming populated locations, the BGN sought additional review and comments from Tribes, local communities and stakeholders before the final vote.

The seven places for additional review included:

  • Sq___ Harbor, Alaska: Removed from consideration. Feature is a historical area that no longer serves as an unincorporated community.
  • Sq___ Hill, Calif.: Name changed to Loybas Hill. Proposed by the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, the name translates to “Young Lady” and honors the past, present and future Native women from and living in the area.
  • Sq___ Valley, Calif.: Name changed to Yokuts Valley, which was proposed during the public comment period. Yokuts translates to “people.”
  • Sq___ Gap, N.D.: Name changed to Homesteaders Gap, which was selected by the community in the populated area as relevant to their local history.
  • Sq___berry, Tenn.: Name changed to Partridgeberry, another common name for the plant for which the community is currently named.
  • Sq___ Mountain, Texas: Name changed to Lynn Creek in honor of Isaac Lynn, who lived on the creek nearby that bears his name.
  • Sq___ Place, Wyo.: Removed from consideration. Feature is a locale now listed as privately owned land.

The list of all new names will be updated on the U.S. Geological Survey website to reflect today’s vote along with a map of locations. While the new names are immediately effective for federal use, the public may continue to propose name changes for any features through the regular BGN process.

Secretary’s Order 3404 considered only the sq___ derogatory term in its scope. Secretary’s Order 3405 created a Federal Advisory Committee for the Department to formally receive advice from the public regarding additional derogatory terms, derogatory terms on federal land units, and the process for derogatory name reconciliation. In August, the Department announced the members of the Federal Advisory Committee and held its first meeting in December.

  • Dept. of the Interior release