The federal government has just renamed a lake on Mount Rainier after a drive to remove a derogatory word from geographic features around the country.
The lake, located on the national park’s Wonderland Trail, was originally named “Squaw Lake”.
That was a problem, since the word is considered derogatory by many in the Native American community, not least by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland; she announced on Feb. 22 that more than 660 lakes, rivers, peaks, and other geographic features would be renamed after a task force solicited for suggestions and consulted with tribes.
“Words matter, particularly in our work to make our nation’s public lands and waters accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Consideration of these replacements is a big step forward in our efforts to remove derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue,” Haaland, the first-ever Native American to serve as a U.S. cabinet member, said in a press release. “Throughout this process, broad engagement with Tribes, stakeholders and the general public will help us advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”
The task force consulted with nearly 70 tribes and received more than 1,000 suggestions for name changes.
The lake’s new name is “Kiya Lake” and was suggested by the Puyallup Tribe; in Whulshootseed (or Twulshootseed), the tribe’s language, “Kiya” means “Grandmother”.
The Courier-Herald reached out to the Tribe for comment, but did not receive one before print deadline.
The Department of the Interior’s official decision to rename the lake, which was announced late September, became effective immediately on the federal level.
However, according to Washington state Department of Natural Resources Communications Manager Kenny Ocker, the name is not yet changed on the state level — this requires an outside application be submitted to the state Committee on Geographic Names (overseen by the DNR).
“It’s heartening to see this feature to be renamed to not have the feature bearing a derogatory term toward indigenous women,” he added.
About 19 other names of various geographical features were renamed in Washington state, ranging from a pair of islands in Klickitat County (now named Sq’wanana) to a spring in Garfield County (now South Tucannon Spring).