- Mar 1, 2000
Honestly, this is one of the best cabinet assignments I can recall
"Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands," Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said as she formally declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term Friday and ordered a task force to find replacement names for valleys, lakes, creeks and other sites on federal lands that use the word.
The order, which takes effect immediately, stands to affect more than 650 place names that use the term, according to figures from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
"Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation's lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage — not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression," Haaland said in a news release about the change.
The origin of the word "squaw" has been traced to the Algonquian language, in which it meant simply "woman." But its meaning was skewed by centuries of use by white people, including colonists in the 1600s.
"The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women," the Interior Department said.