Interior Department changes the names of 26 places in Alaska that contained a racist term for Native women

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at the Bureau of Land Management-Alaska headquarters in Anchorage on April 21, 2022. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Interior Department is changing 26 place names on federal lands in Alaska which contain a racist word for Indigenous women, following an order from the nation’s first Native American Interior secretary.

The 26 places in Alaska are among almost 650 nationwide that received a new name Thursday. The renaming follows Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s order last November that the slur, “sq—”, be removed from federal lands.

“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 on Thursday.

Most of the Alaska features to be renamed are creeks and other waterways, about half of them in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area with others spanning much of Interior and Southeast Alaska.

Many of the replacement names, selected after input from local stakeholders to a panel formed under Haaland’s order, use generic terms such as Crystal Creek and Water Lily Lake. Nine names are Indigenous.

While the offensive term in question has met wide scorn in the U.S. only somewhat recently, changing place names in response to broadening opposition to racism has long precedent.

The department ordered the renaming of places carrying a derogatory term for Black people in 1962 and those with a derogatory term for Japanese people in 1974.

Here are Alaska’s 26 new place names

In the Chugach area:

• Kacuuqaq Bay

In the Copper River area:

• Kuy’aa Creek

• Ts’akae Creek

• Tsedi Ts’ese’

In the Dillingham area:

• Amau Creek

In the Fairbanks area:

• Jëjezhuu Tr’injàa Gulch

• Jëjezhuu Tr’injàa Mountain

In the Lake and Peninsula Borough:

• Sea Gull Creek

In the Matanuska Susitna Borough:

• Hnilges Creek

• Puntilla Creek

• Water Lily Lake

In Southeast:

• Kayáashkeiditaan Creek

• Hiilaang Ts’uujuus Mountain

In the Yukon-Koyukuk area:

• Aeolian Crossing

• Aeolian Crossing Point

• Aeolian Crossing Slough

• Antipope Creek

• Boulder Lake

• Cen Creek

• Crystal Creek

• Crystal Lake

• Glacier River Rapids

• Lush Creek

• McLellan Creek

• McLellan Peak

• White Creek

The Associated Press contributed information to this story.

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