Squaw Peak in Provo is pictured on Oct. 5, 2017. The peak received a new name Thursday following a decision by the federal government. It is now known as Kyhv Peak. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of geographic locations across the nation have new names now following a decision by the Department of the Interior to remove the term “squaw,” which the government agency deems as an “offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.”
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved name changes to nearly 650 geographic locations, including 50 in Utah. Most notably, Squaw Mountain/Peak in Utah County will be renamed Kyhv Peak, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, while a valley just to the north by Lindon will be renamed Brook Hollow.
The entire list of new names for certain locations can be found here.
The decision comes a year after U.S. Secretary Deb Haaland issued secretary’s orders 3404 and 3405, which designated reviews of the use of what is referred to as the “sq-word” and designated a committee to “broadly solicit, review and recommend changes to derogatory geographic and federal land unit names.”
The department received over 1,000 name change recommendations during a public comment period after the declarations were issued. Dozens of tribal governments participated, as well, leading up to Thursday’s announcement, according to the Department of Interior.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” Haaland said, in a statement. “I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board on Geographic Names for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.”
The decision also comes a little over a year after the Utah Legislature passed SB10 in its 2021 legislative session. The bill, sparked by the “sq-word,” authorized the Utah Division of Indian Affairs to “help facilitate the application process for changing location names referring to American Indian terms.” Legislators noted at the time that final approval would have to come from the Department of Interior.
Ed Naranjo, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute, requested the change in a letter to Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, ahead of the 2021 session, which he told KSL-TV in 2020 was inspired by his daughters.
“There’s something going on that’s not right and we need to change that,” he said, at the time. “It has to stop. This is a new world, a new society and everybody is trying to get along with one another.”
A group called the Repeak Committee also pushed for a Squaw Peak name change in 2017 after the U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted to rename Moab’s Negro Bill Canyon to Grandstaff Canyon.
Meanwhile, more name changes could be on the horizon, department officials said Thursday. It named members of a new federal advisory committee to “help identify and recommend changes to derogatory terms” just last month. More information about their process to review and possibly change names is expected “in the coming weeks.”
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