DOI Changes names of ten areas in San Juan
by David Boyle
Department of Interior approves name changes for 10 areas in San Juan County.On September 8, following a 10-month process, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) announced federal agencies would replace the word “squaw” on 650 geographic features across the US including 10 in San Juan County.
In a release, the DOI said the action was, “The last step in the historic efforts to remove a term from federal use that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.”
Among the areas with names changed include San Juan County locations formerly known as “Squaw Canyon” and “Squaw Point”, now known as “Bug Canyon” and “Sego Point”, located near the Colorado border where Dove Creek converges with Montezuma Creek.
Within Canyonlands National Park Needle District popular hiking areas have been renamed Salt Flat, Salt Flat Spring, Salt Flat Butte, and Wooden Shoe Canyon.
A small spring and lake located northeast of the Bears Ears buttes has been renamed South Elk Spring and South Elk Hole.
On the La Sal Mountains, a stream coming off of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz has been renamed Tukuhnikivatz Spring.On the west side of the county near the Colorado River and Lost Canyon a rock pillar formation has been renamed Sheep Canyon Rock.
The process to replace the ten names in San Juan County and hundreds elsewhere in the country began in November of 2021 when DOI Secretary Deb Haaland issued Secretarial Order 3404.
The order identified the term “squaw” as derogatory and created a federal task force to replace names that use the term on federal lands.
The task force included representation from a variety of federal departments including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, and others.
The group, known as the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force presented their work to the Board of Geographic Names, a federal body tasked with naming geographic places, which voted to approve the name change of 650 locations across the country.
As part of the process, the task force received over 1,000 public comments as well as input from Tribal governments. Secretary Haaland shared her gratitude to the board and those involved in the renaming process.
“I feel 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 federal locations for far too long.”
The list of new names and a map of their locations can be found online at https://geonarrative.usgs.gov/names_taskforce/