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Colorado board OKs removing word 'squaw' from several sites

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Posted at 8:26 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 22:26:41-04

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado advisory board has begun the process of removing the word "squaw" from 28 of the state's peaks, valleys, passes and creeks.

The Colorado Sun reports the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board met Sunday and considered task force recommendations from local communities. The board approved new names for nearly two dozen features but deferred a handful of name changes to a federal task force and steered clear of suggestions for naming features after people.

The word "squaw," derived from the Algonquin language, may once have simply meant "woman." But over generations, it morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women.

In Dec. 2021, federal panel approved renaming a Colorado peak after a Cheyenne woman who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native American tribes in the early 19th century, part of a broader campaign to replace derogatory place names across the United States.

Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain, which is pronounced “mess-taw-HAY,” bears the name of and honors an influential translator also known as Owl Woman who mediated between Native Americans and white traders and soldiers in what is now southern Colorado.

The renaming of what was known as Squaw Mountain, 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Denver, comes after U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland formally declared “squaw” a derogatory term in November and said she is taking steps to remove it from federal government use and to rename other derogatory place names. Haaland is the nation’s first Native American Cabinet official.