By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Lander officials are encouraging Eastern Shoshone tribal members to suggest a new name to the federal government for Squaw Creek in central Wyoming.
Neither the city nor its host county, Fremont, possess the creek, but the U.S. Department of Interior emailed city officials requesting suggestions for renaming the creek, part of a national initiative to scrub the word “squaw” from all geographic features.
“As I see it, it’s nothing the city is wanting to do,” Lander Mayor Monte Richardson said during a Tuesday meeting of the Lander City Council. “It’s the Department of the Interior that’s making this change. (But) we just want an opportunity to put out there and come up with some names where we could have our voices, or the citizens’ voices, heard – to come up with some names to present to the Department.”
Councilwoman Julia Stuble agreed with the concept of seeking alternatives to the name locally. She said the U.S. Geological Survey’s suggestion – to rename squaw-titled features after nearby cites – “didn’t strike me as particularly locally driven or informed.”
The Fremont County Commission as of Wednesday hadn’t received the same federal invitation to brainstorm new names, although the nearby road also bearing the “Squaw Creek” name is a county, not a city road.
“It would be a good step forward to strongly consider a name that would come from the (Eastern) Shoshone Tribe,” said Wade LeBeau, who is an EST member and activist. “Most of these things were named already by the Shoshone, because that’s how (tribal members in history) would describe where they needed to go.”
LeBeau and his fellow tribal member Mike Garvin offered to visit the headwaters of the creek, look for natural distinctions that could become landmark titles in the Shoshone tradition and suggest them in their native language.
Richardson seemed to welcome the idea, saying “I’d be curious to see you (Garvin) and Wade walk around up there and look it over and come back with some (suggestions).”
Meanwhile, some Northern Arapaho Tribal authorities have been brainstorming names in their native tongue, Arapaho.
“We are working with our elders on the names,” Crystal C’Bearing, deputy director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, wrote in a Wednesday message to Cowboy State Daily.
C’Bearing said there are suggested names “in our language,” and a special renaming task force is consulting with the THPO.
The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone THPO representatives were unable attend the Lander City Council meeting, Stuble said.
Both tribes cohabit the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.