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Sites with Native slur include Marion County lake

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) is leading an effort to rename sites that use a derogatory term for Native American women. (File photo)

A lake in Florida’s Marion County is one of 660 sites across the U.S. that are on a list to be renamed due to the use of the word “squaw,” which is considered a racist and misogynistic slur toward Native American women.

Squaw Pond is a remote eight-acre lake located in the Ocala National Forest in the north-central area of the state. The circumstances of how and when the lake was named was not immediately clear. It is the only Florida site identified on the list.

The landmarks and sites on the list are located on federal lands and waterways. Work began in earnest this year at the Interior Department, led by Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), to submit new names – based on input from tribes – for the identified sites.

Haaland’s office directed a task force to submit the new names to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for approval – a federal body that standardizes U.S. place names. Haaland ordered the National Park Service to go through a similar process.

The suggested replacement names for the Florida site, according to the list, are Gardners Prairie, Forts Bear Hole, Greens Bear Hole, Indian Prairie and Sellers Prairie. It was not immediately clear what level of tribal input was used to determine the replacement names.

“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds,” Haaland said in a statement about the initiative last month. “Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue.”

Forty states have at least one site or landmark on the list that contain the slur. California and Idaho have the most – 86 and 84, respectively.

Some places on the list are better known than others, like Squaw Mountain, an 8,000-foot peak near Provo, Utah, that is commonly known as Squaw Peak and is popular with hikers. Other sites that contain the slur are far more obscure, like the lake in Marion County.

Google, which relies on third-party data and operates Google Maps, recently told the New York Times that the federal name changes would be reflected on its maps once they are finalized.

The National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers recently published a report that said the renaming effort was not about “canceling history.”

“Rather it is an opportunity to provide a more honest accounting of America’s past and a gesture toward healing historic wounds,” the report said.

Public comment is being taken on the replacement names through April 25. Click here for more. To access the full list of sites to be renamed, click here. The National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers report is here.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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