The Interior Department (DOI) under President Joe Biden has changed the names of nearly 650 racial and disparaging topographical features on public properties, the agency announced on Thursday.
According to a press release, the DOI’s Board of Geographic Names found that the word “squaw” is an insulting ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women. According to Merriam-Webster, the term dates back to 1622 and refers to a Native American lady. Up until Thursday, it was used to name canyons, lakes, springs, and other geographical features.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America,” DOI Secretary Deb Haaland said in a released statement on Thursday.
In 2021, the DOI established a Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and announced in an order that the term “squaw” will soon be eliminated from the names of federal land features. The Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force received over 1,000 name suggestions during the public comment period, and the agency held a final vote on the land name alternatives, according to DOI on Thursday.
Former President Donald Trump’s deputy solicitor for DOI’s parks and wildlife division, Karen Budd-Falen, claimed that the Biden administration is overly concerned with political correctness at the expense of more crucial policy matters.
The DOI’s order has an influence on geographical features in dozens of states, including California, Alaska, Alabama, and Pennsylvania. While the new land names are effective right now, further name modifications can still be suggested by the public.
An inquiry for comments from DOI was not answered.