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Dept. of Interior, Native American groups pushing to have slur removed from Utah landmarks

Posted at 9:25 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 23:29:40-04

The Department of Interior is working to make a derogatory Native American slur history by removing it from Utah peaks, lakes and flats.

“It’s disheartening and it’s frustrating that we’re still today, 2022, that we’re still having to see these words,” said Davina Smith, a member of the Diné Nation and tribal coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Squaw Peak looms over Orem and Provo. It’s a popular mountain and lookout over Utah County. Soon, the feds hope to change its name to something with a better meaning.

Smith says the term "squaw" is hurtful, specifically toward indigenous women.

“When I hear that name, it is really the equivalent to calling any other person of color the names that they had to endure,” she said.

The initiative to remove the term is nothing new to the city of Provo. In 2017, a local group tried to rename the peak, and just last year, a state bill passed to make the application process easier to change the names.

“If we’re going to continue to move forward to write or to correct this, it needs to happen now,” said Smith.

According to the Department of Interior, there are around fifty landmarks in Utah that use that term and over 600 nationwide.

Secretary Deb Haaland established a Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and hosted tribal consultation sessions just last week to brainstorm replacement names.

“Right now, with it being used in a derogatory way to refer to Indians, why not use a positive?" said Mary Murdock Meyer, chief executive of Timpanogos Nation. "I think Indian tribes would probably be the best to decide that."

Some of the proposed names for Squaw Peak in Provo include First Left Fork Rock Canyon or just Rock Canyon. In Weber County, Squaw Flat could change to Pine Canyon, Bear River Range or Woodruff Creek.

“We want to try and all get along. We want to try and all be humane with each other,” said Meyer. “That would be a big start for the future generations.”