In November of 2021 Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally established a process to review and replace (for federal use) derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. In September of 2022 the Board on Geographic Names voted on the final replacement names for nearly 650 geographic features featuring the word “squaw,” including in New York State
A more recent vote completed that process for several populated place names in the American West. The votes were steps required to remove a term from federal use that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.
The Board on Geographic Names – originally established by Executive Order in 1890 – is a federal body designed to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government. It is comprised of representatives from federal agencies concerned with geographic information, population, ecology, and management of public lands. In 1947, the Secretary of the Interior was given joint authority with the Board on Geographic Names and has final approval or review of its actions.
Derogatory names have previously been identified by the Secretary of the Interior or the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and have been comprehensively replaced. In 1962, Secretary Stewart Udall identified the n-word as derogatory, and directed that the BGN develop a policy to eliminate its use. In 1974, the Board on Geographic Names identified a pejorative term for “Japanese” as derogatory and eliminated its use.
Several states have passed legislation prohibiting the use of the word “squaw” in place names, including Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota. There is also legislation pending in both chambers of Congress to address derogatory names on geographic features on public land units. The BGN has received 261 proposals to replace geographic features with “squaw” in the name in the past 20 years.
Places in New York renamed by this action are:
Squaw Mountain is renamed Schroon Mountain
Squaw Mountain is renamed Beaver Mountain
Squaw Lake is renamed Muskrat Lake
Squaw Brook is renamed Porter Brook
Little Squaw Brook is renamed Onion Brook
Squaw Island is renamed South Island
Squaw Swamp is renamed Black Swamp
St. Lawrence County
Squaw Creek is renamed Sparrowhawk Creek
Squaw Island is renamed Susquehanna River Island
Squaw Point on Seneca Lake is renamed Seneca Point
A map of all renamed locations can be found here.