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KPBS Midday Edition

Racist and sexist name removed from federal sites

In this Dec. 20, 2020, file photo the Biden administration's nominee for Secretary of Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington Del.
Associated Press
In this Dec. 20, 2020, file photo the Biden administration's nominee for Secretary of Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington Del.

The U.S. government has renamed hundreds of peaks, lakes, streams and other geographical sites on federal lands to remove a racist slur targeted against Native American women. The term 'squaw' is a derogatory word used to describe the genitalia of Native Women and until last week was used to name nearly 650 federal land sites.

The change has been years in the making. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland ordered the word 'squaw' to be removed from federal place names in 2021.

"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," she said.

In San Diego some landmarks have been renamed to remove the slur including 'Squaw Canyon' which is now known as Mat Kwa'rar Nemaaw and 'Squaw Peak' now named
Mat Puy Nah Achhuukaayp.

"It's a step in the right direction to address the long legacy of colonization that has really done a number to impact the lives of native women and girls ," said Joely Proudfit, a CSU San Marcos professor and the first Indigenous woman appointed to California’s Commission on the status of Women and Girls. Proudfit joined Midday Edition to talk about the slur and what its removal means.

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