The federal government Friday declared the word “squaw” a derogatory term and began the process of removing and replacing it on federal lands.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary, said the term has been used as a racial slur particularly against Indigenous women.
“Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” said Secretary Haaland.
A newly created task force will have to seek Tribal consultation and public feedback on proposed name changes to sites on federal lands.
The Department of Interior says several states have passed legislation prohibiting the use of the word “squaw” in place names, including Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota.
There is also legislation pending in both chambers of Congress to address derogatory names on geographic features on public land units, according to The Department of Interior.
This isn’t the first time the federal government has declared a word derogatory. The Department of Interior says racial slurs aimed at other groups were eliminated from federal lands in the 1960s and 1970s.