By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
There were 19 different Squaw Creeks on federal lands in Wyoming until Thursday. Now there are none.
The U.S. Department of Interior announced Thursday that it had assigned new names to 643 federal geographical locations nationwide and 41 on Wyoming federal lands that included the word “Squaw.”
The word, used historically to describe Indigenous women but also used as a slur is now too offensive to be used in major landmark names, according to Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming,” said Haaland in a prepared press release Thursday. “That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long.”
She thanked members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, which she created with an agency order last November, and the Board on Geographic Names, which was established in 1890.
“Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America,” said Haaland.
The mass name changes should not have been done by the same federal entity and unelected officials, Karl Brauneis told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
Brauneis, now retired, worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years and lives near the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.
“The issue I have with it is how it was done,” he said, adding that local representative boards like county commissions should be able to rename landmarks their constituents use routinely, if their constituents urge them to.
“But to have an administrative function go through, of unelected officials making such a vast change – that really reeks of a dictatorship to me,” he added.
Brauneis said one of the strengths of America and Wyoming has been their differences between separate regions, and the ability of all those to coexist. He worried that letting the federal government call the shots would eliminate that.
“I don’t want to see a monoculture,” he said.
‘Destroy Your History’
Brauneis also was concerned that renaming hundreds of landmarks erases the very cultural struggles that society today has largely overcome.
“You start to destroy your history,” he said, adding that mankind’s many injustices throughout history should be remembered now, and preserved as a warning and a chance to learn.
“Recognize that we’re all fallible, recognize the fact of it, and how are you going to learn from this situation and not be one-sided?” Brauneis asked, rhetorically.
‘She’d Frickin’ Slap Me’
Eastern Shoshone Tribal activist Wade LeBeau agreed with the Interior Department’s efforts – when they first began. He told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that his agreement stemmed from how deeply offended native women are at the word “squaw.”
“Every native woman is offended at the term,” said LeBeau. “If I called any native woman a squaw she’d frickin’ slap me.”
Crystal C’Bearing, deputy director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, told Cowboy State Daily in March that the word “has allowed settlers to see Indigenous women as less than human.”
Sounds Like, Popozha
But LeBeau said he was dismayed at the names chosen by the federal board.
LeBeau and fellow activist Mike Garvin, along with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, were approved this spring to offer some Fremont County landmark name suggestions to the Lander City Council.
The federal government re-named most Fremont County landmarks after the local Popo Agie River (pronounced: Popozha).
LeBeau recommended the Shoshone-language version of “Medicine Woman Creek,” for “Squaw Creek” because he thought such a name could preserve the cultural history while mitigating the insult.
“Naming it something like that (may have) negated any bad or ill feelings from the native side, while also remembering the woman that probably did live there,” he said, noting that many “squaw”-titled landmarks likely were named that way because of a native woman or women living in the area.
Other Wyoming counties, however, received new titles with Indigenous themes. Especially Teton County.
Teton County’s Squaw Creek is now Pannaite Naokwaide. Squaw Canyon is now Tuka Naa’iya Po’I Hunu’u. Squaw Creek is now Paateheya’ateka’a Naokwaide.
“The name we had suggested, you could have pronounced it,” said LeBeau, adding that “Medicine Woman” translates as “Sogo Waipa” and “Creek” translates to Shoshone as “Ugway.”
The Teton County Commission did not immediately respond to an email and a phone call requesting comment.
A full list of Wyoming site name changes is below.
Squaw Creek is now Lake Mountain Creek
South Squaw Creek is now South Sage Creek.
Squaw Butte is now Duck Butte.
Squaw Creek County is now Sage Creek.
Squaw Creek in Carbon and Natrona Counties is now Dugway Creek
Squaw Canyon is now Continental Divide Canyon
Squaw Mountain in Converse County is now Roaring Mountain
Squaw Peaks in Converse County is now Horseshoe Peaks
Squaw Buttes is now Bear Buttes.
Squaw Butte is now Muskrat Butte.
Squaw Lake is now Marys Lake.
Squaw Creek is now Popo Agie Creek
Squaw Creek shared by Fremont and Teton County is now Fireweed Creek
South Fork Squaw Creek is now South Fork Popo Agie Creek
Squaw Rock is now Bear Rock
Squaw Teat Butte is now Sugar Butte.
Squaw Creek is now Paamus Naokwaide
Squaw Flat is now Paantsugu Seepaithe
Squaw Fork Canyon is now Huu’na Waippe Naokwaide
Squaw Creek is now Platte Creek.
Squaw Spring is now Deer Spring
Squaw Peak is now Kuchunteka’a Toyavi
Squaw Teats is now Crow Woman Buttes
Squaw Creek is now Kuchunteka’a Naokwaide
(A higher elevation) Squaw Creek is now North Fork Hoodoo Creek
Squaw Rock is now Slate Rock
Squaw Hill is now Maxwell Hill.
Squaw Mountain is now Slate Mountain.
Squaw Creek is now L Quarter Circle Creek.
Squaw Teat is now Little Sandy Peak
Middle Fork Squaw Creek is now Middle Fork Sagebrush Creek
East Fork Squaw Creek is now East Fork Sagebrush Creek
Squaw Creek is now Sagebrush Creek
West Fork Squaw Creek is now West Fork Sagebrush creek
Squaw Hollow is now Nahguch Hollow
Squaw Creek is now Pannaite Naokwaide.
Squaw Basin is now Two Ocean Basin
Squaw Canyon is now Tuka Naa’iya Po’I Hunu’u
Squaw Creek is now Paateheya’ateka’a Naokwaide
Squaw Creek is now High Park Creek