Feds Bypass Wyo Board Of Geographic Names In Renaming “Squaw” Sites

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Months of work by the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names to address a Park County landmark containing the word “squaw” has been bypassed by an order from the U.S. Department of Interior.

Board Executive Director Shelley Messer told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the board received a proposal in July 2020 to rename two features in Park County, the Squaw Teats, a pair of buttes near Cody, to “Crow Woman Buttes.”

“We discussed this proposal at several meetings, including our last meeting on Nov. 17, 2021, with a commitment to take a vote and make a recommendation at our May 2022 meeting,” Messer said. “A few days after that November meeting is when the Secretarial Order was issued.”

The order in question removed the term “squaw” from about 660 locations around the country. It was issued by Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland, who declared the term derogatory.

As a result, the board’s prior work was not consulted by the department.

However, Messer said the board will be able to provide input during the public comment period on suggest name changes.

“We are certainly welcome to submit suggestions, as is any interested party,” she said.

Wyoming has 43 locations that the DOI order recommends for name changes, including several variations of the name “Squaw Creek” found in Albany, Natrona, Fremont and Carbon counties. There are also several “Squaw Butte” variations in Wyoming.

The DOI has started consultations with American Indian tribes and launched a public comment period for the recommendation and review of proposed replacement names.

Messer said the DOI is initially recommending replacement names that are taken from the names of nearby geographic features.

“For example, ‘Castle Creek’ is the nearest named feature to ‘Squaw Mesa,’ Messer said. “The first candidate replacement name for the derogatory named feature would be ‘Castle Mesa.’ Proposed additional candidate names will also be accepted during the public comment period.”

The public comment period ends April 25.

The federal BGN has received 261 proposals over the past 20 years for new names for geographic features with the word squaw in their name.

There was much discussion among Park County commissioners and the Wyoming Board of Geographic Names last year over the potential renaming of “Squaw Teats.”

Commissioners Joseph Tilden, Dossie Overfield, Lee Livingston and Lloyd Thiel did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story said that the Wyoming BGN received 261 proposals. It has been corrected.

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