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Bill introduced to rename Utah landmarks offensive to Native Americans

Utah landmark squaw map
Posted at 2:22 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 20:30:18-05

SALT LAKE CITY  — A bill is being introduced in the Utah State Legislature that would create a process to rename landmarks offensive to Native Americans.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, would involve tribes, local governments, Utah's Division of Indian Affairs and the federal government to get areas re-named. People could petition to have a name changed.

"They're all over," Sen. Iwamoto said in a recent interview with FOX 13.

A search of geographic locations identified at least 64 places across Utah with names using offensive terms for Native Americans, the most common being a racial and sexual slur for a woman.

"If someone called me a 'squaw,' I would be highly offended," said Tamra Borchardt-Slayton, the chair of the Paiute Tribe of Utah.

Borchardt-Slayton said it was past time for the landmarks with that slur to be re-named.

"It’s a derogatory name for Native American women. At this time, it has no place to be so freely used when we know it’s such an offensive name," she told FOX 13.

The most well-known location is "Squaw Peak" in Provo Canyon, Sen. Iwamoto said. It was a constituent's desire to re-name that location that spurred her legislation. A spokeswoman for Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi confirmed to FOX 13 she is supportive of renaming that location to remove the offensive term.

"I think this is a way to build our ties upon respect and inclusion with the Native Americans in our state," Sen. Iwamoto said.

Because the bill envisions a process that involves so many stakeholders and the federal government, it will not happen immediately, Borchardt-Slayton said.

"It’s not going to be a fast fix, I guarantee you that. It’s going to be a months, years process," she said.

But Borchardt-Slayton said it needs to happen, urging people to call their lawmakers during the 2021 session to support the bill.

"It’s 2020. We know for a fact that 'squaw' and other names are highly offensive," she told FOX 13. "We should move forward because Utah can do better."

Sen. Iwamoto's legislation is not the only one dealing with Native American names. Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-West Valley City, is introducing a resolution to prod schools to remove mascots that offend Native Americans.