The Committee on Geographic Names accepted two tribal proposals that would replace derogatory terms with names that reflect tribal history and culture. 

Back in 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior ordered state agencies to rename any landmark that featured derogatory terms towards indigenous women.

These terms were featured in 18 landmarks within 14 counties statewide: Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania, and Stevens.

Two landmarks, one in Chelan County and another in Okanogan County, received new names.

Both the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have historical claims to these landmarks, with each tribal organization submitting their own name changes.

The committee accepted the Colville Reservation’s proposal to rename a Chelan County landmark to Masawii Lake, named after the indian parsnips that would be collected in that Wenatchi tribal area.

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Yakama Nation proposed to rename it Wowpu-tushwa, to commemorate the Wowpum group, a subgroup of the Wenatchapum group.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Communications Manager Kenny Ocker says the Yakama Nation decided to withdraw their proposal.

For the Okanogan County landmark, the committee went with Colville Reservation’s name change to Swaram Creek Ridge, recommended by a Methow tribal elder.

“Swaram” is a term for torchlight fishing originating from the Methow tribe.

Swaram Creek, a neighboring creek to that ridge, previously bore a derogatory name, but the Board of Natural Resources accepted a name change for the creek back in 2018.

Yakama Nation’s suggested name, Mokheil, will be entered into a federal geographic naming database as an alternative name for that ridge.

After accepting these proposals, they will be presented to the DNR for adoption, ultimately concluding the Interior’s initiative.

All of the accepted landmark name changes can be found here.

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