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At the urging of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a ​​member of the Pueblo of Laguna who is the first Indigenous person to hold a cabinet-level position in a U.S. presidential administration, the federal government is beginning a formal process to remove racist and derogatory names from lands under its jurisdiction. 

Last week, Haaland ordered the Interior Department’s Board on Geographic Names to institute procedures to remove terms such as “squaw,” which is found in the names of more than 650 federal sites. For the first time in U.S. history, a federal order now explicitly designates “squaw,” a racist and misogynist term used as a slur against Indigenous women by settlers, as a derogatory term.  

In a statement, Haaland said that the move marks a “significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial.” 

“Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands,” she added. “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.”

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