Interior forms advisory group to remove nation’s derogatory place names
The goal of the Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names, comprised of 17 members who largely represent tribes and tribal organizations, is to help identify and recommend changes to derogatory terms still in use for places throughout the U.S., including geographic features like rivers, lakes and mountains.
“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,” Haaland said.
A key part of the process is talking early and often with tribes and the Native Hawaiian community, according to Christine Johnson, one of a few committee members representing the Mountain West. She’s a professor in the anthropology and geography departments at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“People need to be heard and names that reflect times in history that are painful for people need to be considered because people shouldn't be forced to experience a dark part of history on a daily basis,” Johnson said.
She says the federal advisory group will also engage with state and local governments. In addition, committee meetings, which haven’t been scheduled yet, will be open to the public.
A separate federal task force was created last year to remove the term sq_ _ _, a racist and sexist slur against Native American women. In late July, the Interior Department announced the group had concluded its review of more than 660 instances of the term in use within federal lands. More than 300 are in the Mountain West. Candidate replacement names were recommended to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is expected to vote on the names in September.
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***LOCAL NOTE: Over 28 Colorado sites that have names recently questioned include ones in: Eagle County, Mesa County, and one in Garfield County. As many of the former or current names are racial slurs or violent, they won’t be mentioned here. Many alternative site names proposed for these areas include indigenous terms, names of prominent individuals, or names that are considered to be more descriptive of the region and tribal lands the geographic feature is in.