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Anti-indigenous slur to be removed from US place names

Secretary of the Interior of the United States, Deb Haaland, formally declared the term “sq**w” derogatory. Haaland ordered a task squad to rename federal lands, including valleys, lakes, and creeks that contain the word. According to statistics and figures from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, there are approximately 650 entities that include the time.


The Interior Department said the term was “an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.” The order to rename the 650 place names took place immediately. 


According to an article by NPR, Haaland said in a news release: "Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. 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."


The term “sq**w” stems from the Algonquian language used to refer to women. The time eventually became derogatory and was frequently used to insult and degrade indigenous women by white people and colonists in the 1600s.


Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement that she feels “a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced nationwide locations for far too long…Together, we’re showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.”


The call for changing the US sites which contain the term has been a decades-long effort by Indigenous communities but only garnered force after Haaland's confirmation in the US cabinet.


Deb Haaland was the first Native American to serve in the cabinet in United States history, which brought momentum to the movement and removal of derogatory terms for Native Americans. 


This new federal action is one of the most significant forces in pushing for the removal of derogatory terms from place names. Earlier this year, a ski resort on Lake Tahoe dropped the word from its name, recognizing its racist and sexist implications.


Since the announcement to prohibit the term, the Interior Department has noted Haaland’s efforts to follow the same paths taken by her predecessors and the Board on Geographic Names.

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