The Department of the Interior (Department) is responsible for the stewardship and management of public lands. Still, there are many geographic features across the Nation that bear names that are considered derogatory. This Order identifies the term "squaw” as derogatory and provides direction to the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to replace it.
Order No. 3404 names "squaw" as a pejorative word due to its use "as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women."
"The BGN is a Federal body established by Public Law 80-242 (61 Stat. 456) in 1947 to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government," The Secretary of the Interior wrote.
"The BGN comprises representatives of Federal agencies concerned with geographic information, population, ecology, and management of public lands. Sharing its responsibilities with the Secretary, the BGN promulgates official geographic feature names in accordance with its principles, policies, and procedures."
The Secretary also addressed BEN's role: "The BG's guiding principle for the names of geographic features in the United States and its territories is to approve for Federal use the names found in present-day local usage."
"An exception to this principle may occur when a name is derogatory to a particular racial or ethnic group, gender, or religious group. The BGN will not make official Federal use a locally used name that has been determined by the Secretary to be derogatory. BGN guidelines also require that a replacement name be identified when removing a derogatory name from a feature."
"Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. 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," Haaland said. "Today's actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial."
The new Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force will examine the names, include "diversity, equity, and inclusion experts," and consult with Native American tribes.
Other federal agencies have made moves to alter language by progressive values. President Joe Biden prevented federal agencies from using the term "illegal alien" in April instead of encouraging the use of words such as "noncitizen" and "migrant."
Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota have already started removing "squaw" from names of places.