CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The U.S. government has joined a ski resort and others that have quit using a racist term for a Native American woman by renaming hundreds of peaks, lakes, streams and other geographical features on federal lands in the West and elsewhere.

The names of more than two dozen places in Colorado were changed as part of the effort.

New names for nearly 650 places bearing the offensive word “squaw” include the mundane (Echo Peak, Texas), peculiar (No Name Island, Maine) and Indigenous terms (Nammi’I Naokwaide, Idaho) whose meaning at a glance will elude those unfamiliar with Native languages.

Nammi’I Naokwaide, located in the traditional lands of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes in southern Idaho, means “Young Sister Creek.” The tribes proposed the new name.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Colorado places renamed from racist term

The changes announced Thursday capped an almost yearlong process that began after Haaland, the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency, took office in 2021. Haaland is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

Haaland in November declared the term derogatory and ordered members of the Board on Geographic Names, the Interior Department panel that oversees uniform naming of places in the U.S., and others to come up with alternatives.

Haaland meanwhile created a panel that will take suggestions from the public on changing other places named with derogatory terms.

Other places renamed include Colorado’s Mestaa’ėhehe (pronounced “mess-taw-HAY”) Pass near Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Denver. The new name honors an influential translator, Owl Woman, who mediated between Native Americans and white traders and soldiers in what is now southern Colorado.

The Board on Geographic Names approved changing the mountain’s name in December.

Here is the full list of places in Colorado where names were changed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey:

New NameRemoved Sq__ NameFeature ClassCounty or EquivalentStateLatitudeLongitude
Petite TetonsSquaw MountainSummitRoutt CountyColorado40.97765408-107.2300464
Earthlodge RockSquaw RockSummitWeld CountyColorado40.96735445-104.5780369
Artists FingersSquaw FingersPillarMesa CountyColorado39.0708151-108.7203767
Nuchu CreekSquaw CreekStreamSummit CountyColorado39.8105413-106.1897465
Colorow CreekSquaw CreekStreamEagle CountyColorado39.658875-106.6386454
Bug CanyonSquaw CanyonValleyDolores County, San Juan CountyColorado, Utah37.44656573-109.1119561
Sego PointSquaw PointSummitDolores County, San Juan CountyColorado, Utah37.64203642-108.9450963
Kaan PaachihpiSquawPillarMontezuma CountyColorado37.1266613-108.6895391
Pawnee HillSquaw HillSummitYuma CountyColorado39.880269-102.1849134
Snow CreekSquaw CreekStreamArchuleta CountyColorado37.2319479-107.3997722
Pargin CreekLittle Squaw CreekStreamArchuleta CountyColorado37.2283368-107.4094946
Eightmile CanyonSquaw CanyonValleyArchuleta CountyColorado37.18227911-107.0245768
Kaavapayawiyagat GulchSquaw GulchValleyOuray CountyColorado38.00138746-107.6941094
Grizzly CreekSquaw CreekStreamHinsdale CountyColorado37.7244442-107.2542204
Grizzly LakeSquaw LakeLakeHinsdale CountyColorado37.63730138-107.2568408
Little Spruce CreekLittle Squaw CreekStreamHinsdale CountyColorado37.728611-107.2344978
Grizzly PassSquaw PassGapHinsdale CountyColorado37.6016682-107.2161622
Hairpin HillSquaw HillSummitMontrose CountyColorado38.43942544-107.6950477
Cimarron CreekSquaw CreekStreamMontrose CountyColorado38.4435992-107.5567252
Red GulchSquaw GulchValleyGunnison CountyColorado38.82050149-106.9223694
Tabeguache CreekSquaw CreekStreamChaffee CountyColorado38.583115-106.081753
Porcupine CreekSquaw CreekStreamSaguache CountyColorado38.1211076-106.4658666
Evening Star MountainSquaw MountainSummitTeller CountyColorado38.71480589-105.1465493
Maize GulchSquaw Gulch (historical)ValleyTeller CountyColorado38.7309915-105.1605981
Soapy CreekSquaw CreekStreamFremont CountyColorado38.6063839-105.5308298
West Pawnee Trail CanyonWest Squaw CanyonValleyBaca County, Cimarron CountyColorado, Oklahoma36.97666866-102.6664959
East Pawnee Trail CanyonEast Squaw CanyonValleyBaca County, Cimarron CountyColorado, Oklahoma36.97665194-102.6663643
Mestaa’ėhehe PassSquaw PassGapClear Creek CountyColorado39.679155-105.4736076

Changing racist names has long precedent

While the offensive term in question, identified as “sq___” by the Interior Department on Thursday, has met wide scorn in the U.S. only somewhat recently, changing place names in response to broadening opposition to racism has long precedent.

The department ordered the renaming of places carrying a derogatory term for Black people in 1962 and those with a derogatory term for Japanese people in 1974.

The private sector in some cases has taken the lead in changing the offensive term for Native women. Last year, a California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.

A Maine ski area also committed in 2021 to changing its name, two decades after that state removed the slur from names of communities and landmarks, though it has yet to do so.

The term originated in the Algonquin language and may have once simply meant “woman.” But over time, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women, experts say.

California, meanwhile, has taken its own steps to remove the word from place names. The state Legislature in August passed a bill that would remove the word from more than 100 places beginning in 2025.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has until the end of September to decide whether to sign the bill into law.


Adam Beam in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.

Lanie Lee Cook with FOX31 contributed to this report.