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US Renames 5 Local Landmarks That Included Racists Slurs in Name

Interior Minister says it is time to update location sites that still contain derogatory terms.

Shutterstock / Kris Wiktor

The U.S. Department of Interior claims that “words matter” and it is time to rename locations that include terms seen as offensive, outdated, and racist.

On Thursday, five locations in California, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas were renamed. The cause for this change is that they previously included racist terms for Native American women.

The renamed locations were: the California Central Valley communities of Loybas Hill, which translated to “Young Lady”; the Yokuts Valley also in California; Partridgeberry, Tennessee; Lynn Creek, Texas; and Homesteaders Gap, in western North Dakota.

It took a year-long process to historically and officially remove the offensive words in the names of these locations. The word “Squaw” is often used for geographic names across the United States but is also a racially insensitive term to reference a Native American woman.

Ensuring that racist language is less present in the United States is an important step to de-normalize racist language and behavior in general.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland released in a statement her opinion that the word is “harmful.”

Words matter, particularly in our work to ensure our nation’s public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

Haaland, Interior Secretary of the United States

Haaland is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency since taking office in 2021.

Minister of Interior for the United States, Deb Haaland, first Native American woman to take Cabinet agency in 2021. Image credit: Shutterstock / Romie Miller

These five locations are only a few out of the 650 sites that contain the word. Although proposals were made for all 650, only seven underwent an additional review, and were considered “unincorporated populated places”. Of which, these final five were formally changed on Thursday.

Mark Fox, the tribal chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said this change is welcome. Fox claims the slur “really causes serious and strong emotions and resistance to that term.”

Speaking to The Associated Press, Fox claims this change was long overdue and, “we are pleased that the racially insensitive and offensive name has been removed.”

There has been some public resistance, however. Joel Brown, a member of the McKenzie County Board of Commissioners, opposes the switch. Brown, a white man, claims he and other residents of the area oppose intervention by the federal government because “generally we find they’re disconnected from what the culture and economy are out here.”

This is not the first time locations have been renamed due to racist derogatory terms. This happened for Black and Japanese people also in 1962, and 1974, respectively.

Last year, 28 Wisconsin sites were renamed to remove the inclusion of racist or misogynistic words or harrowing events.

Read here about the impressive lifetime of activism of Sacheen Littlefeather.

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