Two relatively obscure waterways in rural southeast Oregon are generating a heated dispute over geographic names. The small streams are both named "Squaw Creek," which is considered offensive to Native Americans. But the landowners in each case object to the proposed new names.
A 25-member volunteer panel called the Oregon Geographic Names Board is methodically working to erase the term "squaw" from the state map. Often, the new names are suggested by Native Americans.
Board president Sharon Nesbit says that's the case for two remote creeks in rural Harney County.
"One's Tipi-Tehaga and the other is Ede Huudi," she says.
The first translates to "Rock Canyon Creek" and the second means "near a hot spring." The landowners in both cases don’t like those options.
One wrote to the board to say he didn't think "squaw" is derogatory. He suggested naming the creek after his ranch. The other landowner wants the new name to honor his family.
Nesbit says the panel will take those suggestions under consideration.
"And then we'll try to figure out what's the right thing to do. And our board is frequently split on that."
Nesbit says so far, her board has removed the word “squaw” from about 40 geographic features across Oregon.
Not all of the suggestions under consideration by the Oregon Geographic Names Board are as controversial. There is also a proposal to name a rock in the Clackamas River after Rudyard Kipling.
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