“Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as she announced plans to remove derogatory names from use on federal lands.
Getty Images: OLIVIER DOUULIERY

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday created a new process for reviewing and replacing derogatory names currently used on federal lands, and moved forward with immediately getting rid of one of those words: “squaw.”

The term is a slur that has been used to slur Native American women, and it was racist and sexist in the past. According to the Board on Geographic Names database, there are more than 650 federal units using the term. This federal board is responsible for naming geographical places.

“Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands,” Haaland said in a statement. “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.”

Two secretarial orders were issued Friday by the interior secretary to announce her plans.

The first order formally identifies “squaw” as derogatory and creates a federal task force to find replacement names for geographic features on federal lands bearing the word. Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force members will come from all federal agencies and diversity, equity, inclusion specialists from the Interior Department. This order requires the task force to consult with tribal leaders and take into account public comments on any proposed changes in name.

The second orderA federal advisory committee is established to solicit, review and suggest changes to derogatory federal land unit and geographic names. The Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names (ACRP) will be composed of representatives from tribes, tribal organisations, civil rights specialists, and historians.

These orders will effectively accelerate the review and modification of names on federal lands by the Board on Geographic Names. The board currently acts in a case by case basis. This means that proponents have to identify offensive names and propose a replacement. This process can take years and hundreds of names are currently in the docket.

Derogatory names on federal lands were identified by previous interior secretaries. Secretary Stewart Udall, in 1962, identified the N word as derogatory. She directed a procedure to get rid of it. In 1974, the Board on Geographic Names identified a pejorative term for “Japanese” as derogatory and eliminated its use, too.

A handful of states have passed bills prohibiting the use of “squaw” in the their official names of places, including in Montana, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota. There’s also legislation pending in Congress aimed at changing derogatory names on geographic features on public land units.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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