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Interior chief Deb Haaland moves to strike derogatory names from federal lands

By Simon Druker
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Interior chief Deb Haaland moves to strike derogatory names from federal lands
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a new task force to identify and review derogatory names on federal lands. It will also consult with several stakeholder groups before recommending name changes. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Friday announced steps to create a formal review process to remove derogatory names from federal lands.

The newly created Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force has a mandate to identify and review derogatory names on all federal lands. It will also consult with several stakeholder groups, including tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations, academics and the public before recommending name changes.

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Also on Friday, Haaland declared the word "squaw" to be a derogatory term, ordering the Board on Geographic Names to remove its use within the federal government.

The word is a pejorative term for Indigenous women. Haaland is the country's first Native American Cabinet secretary.

According to the federal body responsible for naming geographic places, the word appears on more than 650 land units.

A handful of states have passed laws banning use of the word in place names.

The board was first established in 1890 and has previously identified and removed other words from the federal vernacular, in consultation with the interior secretary.

On Monday, President Joe Biden held first Tribal Nations summit in five years at the White House and signed an executive order for several departments to create a strategy within 240 days to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and to address "the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples."

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The administration also proposed a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

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