SAN DIEGO – Three San Diego County geographic sites are among more than 660 nationwide being targeted to be renamed by federal officials for their use of the word “squaw,” the U.S. Department of the Interior said Tuesday.
Last November, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declared the word a derogatory term and launched a task force to draft a process to remove it from use by the federal government. The department released a list of candidate replacement names Tuesday for sites in three dozen states, including in California where the term appears 86 times across nearly 30 counties, a federal spreadsheet shows.
The term is used for Squaw Canyon, Squaw Peak and Squaw Tit, all located in the far eastern reaches of San Diego County. Squaw Lake in Imperial County also has been listed as a site for a name change.
“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Haaland said in a statement. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.
“Throughout this process, broad engagement with Tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”
Each site in the county has five suggestions for potential names. They include:
- Squaw Canyon: Tierra Blanca Mountains, Burro Spring, Agua Caliente Springs, Sawtooth Mountains or Inner Pasture;
- Squaw Peak: Palo Verde Wash, San Felipe Creek, Barrel Spring, Fault Wash or Shell Reef; and
- Squaw Tit: Jacumba Mountains, Boulder Creek, Myer Creek, Jacumba Valley or In-Ko-Pah Gorge.
In her declaration last year, Haaland noted that the term has “historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.” Haaland, who took office last year after being nominated to the post by President Joe Biden, is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.
The agency plans to hold three virtual meetings next month to consult with tribal partners. Written comments on proposals will be gathered by the department through April 24.
Comments can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Reconciliation of Derogatory Geographic Names at 1849 C Street NW, Room 6657, MS 6640-MIB, Washington DC, 20240.