Washington changes 9 derogatory place names to ones proposed by tribes

Nine place names that used a derogatory term for Native American women have now been officially replaced by names that were proposed by Washington tribes.

The proposed names became official when the state’s Board of Natural Resources approved them during its Tuesday morning meeting.

The proposals from tribes followed orders in 2021 from the U.S. Department of the Interior to rename geographic features across the country to remove the term “squaw.”

The word was officially declared a derogatory term as a result of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s Order 3404, which says the term “has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.”

>>Effort to remove ‘squaw’ from names of 18 places in WA risks ‘erasing women, history of land’

“By changing these names, we ensure that Washington’s geography will continue to reflect the history of Native American women on our landscape, but with the dignity and respect these women deserve,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who chairs the Board of Natural Resources. “The beautiful, thoughtful cultural legacy these names provide to us all would not have been possible without the time, effort, and support that our state’s tribes have provided throughout this process.”

The names proposed by Washington tribes, along with descriptions as provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, are below.

Names proposed by the Confederated Tribes and Band of the Yakama Nation

The pair of Columbia River islands in Klickitat County is now named Sq’wanana, meaning “two sitting on lap.” The name reflects the names of the islands in the Wishxam language.

The Skamania County lake southeast of Blue Lake is now named Aalvic Wahtum, after Lucille Aalvic. Aalvic was a citizen of the Yakama Nation who lived in Stevenson after being removed from her original family site by the Army Corps of Engineers during the construction of the Bonneville Dam. Aalvic was the first officially enrolled citizen of the Yakama Nation.

The Skamania County butte is now named Pataniks Pushtye, referencing the name of Lulukash, the child of the woman for whom the nearby twin buttes are named.

The Skamania County creek along East Canyon Ridge is now named Timla Wapykt from the traditional name of the adjacent butte, Timla-Timla Pushtye, meaning “little heart mountain of that shape.”

The Skamania County stream that flows into the Little White Salmon River is now named Shluxiksikswana, meaning “the eating place,” after the name of the Klickitat village site within the drainage.

Names proposed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

The peak in Columbia County is now named Wenaha Peak after the Wenaha River, which runs below. Wenaha is a Cayuse place name, and the peak is in the traditional territory of the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce.

The peak in Okanogan County is now named Condon Mountain, after a well-established family in the Kartar Valley on the Colville Reservation. The name comes from the associated Condon Spring.

The creek in Stevens County is now named Snqilt Creek, after the name for the area above Little Dalles to Northport where the creek is located.

Name proposed by the Quinault Indian Nation

The derogatorily named creek in Jefferson County is now named Noskeliikuu, meaning “the place where the whale dropped.” The name has been used in Quinault tribal histories for at least four generations.

San Juan County update

The board also approved a spelling correction for the name of a bay in the San Juan Islands during Tuesday’s meeting. Reads Bay in San Juan County is now named Reeds Bay.

The change corrects the spelling of the name to that of Tacee and John P. Reed, the first settlers on Decatur Island in the late 1860s.

The approved names will be added to the Washington Administrative Code.