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Federal Government Cracking Down on Racial Slurs as Names of Landmarks Including in Wisconsin

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021 -- 8:00 AM

(WBAY) For years, people may have driven past waterways, streets, and landmarks that are named using an indigenous slur and not realize it.

Yet, the federal government is cracking down on that seeking to purge offensive terms. “Derogatory and racial slurs are nothing new to indigenous people. Historically and unfortunately, it puts Native...women in a negative light,” Oneida Nation Councilwoman Jennifer Webster said.

Webster says words have power and influence, especially on the younger generation. “I don’t want my granddaughter to grow up and have someone call her a squaw,” Webster said. “You hear that when things are named that. You know, kids ask. ‘What is that? What is that? What is a squaw?’”

Last month, United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced she was renaming more than 650 federal sites for using “squaw.” “Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands,” Secretary Haaland said in a statement.

“Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage, not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression.”

At least 28 sites were found in Wisconsin with some in Oconto, Marathon, Marinette, Door, and Outagamie counties. “It’s a racial slur, it’s an ethnic slur, and it’s a sexist slur,” Councilwoman Webster said.

Secretary Haaland created the “Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force” to explore removing other slurs. In years past, the agency has renamed federal sites that used the “N” word and an ethnic slur to describe Japanese people.

“We can only build a better Wisconsin if we honor and respect each other. Here in Oneida, we have core values that lead us to believe that if we honor and respect each other, it will be a better community for all,” Webster said.

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