After tackling racist lake name, Crosscut takes on “Squaw”

Sluiskin Mountain, with its two summits, Chief and Squaw. Photo by brewbooks via Flickr.
Sluiskin Mountain, with its two summits, Chief and Squaw. (Photo by brewbooks via Flickr)

After spearheading the charge to change a racist lake name, which resulted in the National Park Service changing its stance on changing the name of Coon Lake to Howard Lake in the North Cascades, Crosscut writer Knute Berger questions the use of the word “Squaw” in place names.

The word is used in about two dozen place names in this state, but some tribes consider the term the equivalent for the “C” word and as offensive as the term “redskin,” Berger says.

He reports that changing names in the Pacific Northwest using the word “Squaw” has been a slow process.

Berger says the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which oversees names in national parks, has no official stance whether the word “squaw” is offensive.

“Runyon explains that it was not an offensive word in the original Algonquin, and some tribes use it in a non-derogatory way, as in the Navajo’s “squaw dance.” So, the board considers it offensive enough to justify reviews when they are petitioned to make a name change, but not enough to ban the term outright.”

Read more at Crosscut: The Northwest’s Squaw Problem

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