Indigenous leaders join national panel to tackle derogatory place names

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Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Photo: US Department of the Interior

Indigenous leaders join national panel to tackle derogatory place names

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian leaders have been appointed to the Place Name Reconciliation Advisory Committee, a national panel that will deal with derogatory place names. Panel members will identify and recommend changes to offensive place names across the country. The group reports to Interior Department, the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country. “Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to carry on the legacy of oppression,” said Home Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Indigenous person to lead the agency. “The Place Name Reconciliation Advisory Committee will expedite an important process of reconciling derogatory place names. I look forward to listening and learning from this esteemed group.

Haaland announced the 17 committee members in a press release on August 9. About half of the panel comes from Indigenous communities. Their names are highlighted below:

  • Derek Alderman – Professor of Geography, University of Tennessee
  • Angelo Baca – Assistant Professor, Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, Rhode Island School of Design (Diné/Hopi)
  • Kiana Carlson – JD Candidate, Mitchell Hamline School of Law (Ahtna Kohtaene, Taltsiine; Native Village of Cantwell, Alaska)
  • Julie Dye – Board Member, Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians)
  • Michael catches the enemy – Tribal Archaeologist, Office of the Fifth Member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Oglala Sioux)
  • Donald Lee Fixico – Professor of History and Indian Studies, Arizona State University (Sac & Fox, Shawnee, Mvskoke, Seminole)
  • Christine Karpchuk-Johnson – Lecturer, Departments of Anthropology and Geography, University of Nevada Reno
  • Niniaukapealiʻi Kawaihae – Special Assistant, Department of Hawaiian Native Lands
  • Jason MacCannell – Special Assistant to the Director, California Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Mills of Kamana’olana – Senior Supervising Project Manager, Sustainable Industry Development, Kamehameha Schools, Hawaiʻi
  • Lauren Monroe Jr. – Secretary, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (Blackfeet Nation, Pikuni)
  • Federico Mosque – Arapaho Language and Culture Program Coordinator (Arapaho)
  • Rachel Pereira – Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at St. John’s University
  • Kimberly Probolus-Cedroni – Historian, Washington DC
  • Howard Dale Valandra – Tribal Land Enterprise Board Member (Rosebud Sioux Tribe)
  • Aimee Villarreal – Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Texas State University
  • Elva Yanez – Senior Advisor for Parks, Land Use and Built Environment at the Prevention Institute

According to the press release, the Place Names Reconciliation Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting in the “coming months.” The group plans to meet approximately two to four times a year. Notices of committee meetings will be published in advance in the Federal Register, the official journal of the US government. The secretariat ordinance that established the panel calls for tribal input on replacement names. In addition to creating the committee, Haaland created the Derogatory Geographical Names Task Force made up of government employees within the Home Office. The group works with the Geographic Names Board remove “squaw” from place names across the country.

Relevant documents

Secretarial Order 3404 – Declaring “Squaw” a derogatory term and implementing procedures to remove the term from federal usage (November 19, 2021)

Secretarial Order 3405 – Treatment of Derogatory Geographic Names (November 19, 2021)

Related stories

Nominations are open for the new Place Names Reconciliation Advisory Committee (January 7, 2022)
Secretary Haaland Takes Action Against Racist and Derogatory Place Names (November 19, 2021)

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