PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The State of Washington has officially renamed five nature sites, some of which previously included a term that is derogatory toward Native American women.
According to the Washington State Board of Natural Resources, the state’s removal of the derogatory word was prompted by direction from the U.S. Department of the Interior just a few years ago.
“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,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in November 2021 when she declared the term derogatory.
At the time, the names of more than 650 federal sites included the term. Since then, a federal task force has been formed to rename geographic and federal places that contain derogatory language.
In Washington specifically, the State Committee on Geographic Names approved of three names proposed by local tribes in early May.
This includes the newly-titled Masawii Lake, a 5-acre lake west of Lake Wenatchee. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation sent the name proposal on behalf of a Wenatchi elder, WA – DNR says.
A 9-acre lake outside of Cle Elum will now be referred to as Nosh Nosh Wahtum, or “Salamander Lake,” due to a proposal from the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
According to state officials, the 2-mile ridge outside of Pateros is now called “Swaram Creek Ridge” — a name inspired by the creek below it. The State Board of Natural Resources says the creek’s previous name included the derogatory term as well, but a name change was approved back in 2018.
“The name was proposed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, coming from a Methow tribal elder,” WA – DNR said. “Staff will also submit the name Mokheil, a traditional name for this landform proposed by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, to the federal geographic names database as an alternate name for the ridge.”
A Jefferson County passage between Marrowstone Island and Indian Island now bears the name “Passage Through,” and a Thurston County ditch outside of Tumwater is called the “Hopkins Ditch.”
Officials say the Washington State Board of Natural Resources’ approved names will be added to the Washington Administrative Code, before the names are submitted to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for federal review.