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Oregon Board Considers Name Changes For 'Squaw' Sites In Eastern Oregon

The state board that supervises the naming of geographic features in Oregon is scheduled to meet Saturday in Tillamook. 

The board will consider new names for several natural features in Eastern Oregon that now contain the word “squaw.”

Although the term originally comes from an Algonquin word meaning ‘woman”, many people find the word offensive.

Sharon Nesbit is the president of The Oregon Geographic Names Board.

She says the first name changes in Oregon began in the 1990s at the request of tribes.  Nesbit says most members of the board haven’t objected to changing place names to eliminate the word.

“What they have had a problem with is that the tribes have returned to us with replacement names in their language with diacritic marks which are often hard to read, hard to pronounce and hard to recognize on a sign,” said Nesbit.

In 2001, the Oregon Legislature passed a law calling for the removal of the word from geographic places.  But Nesbit says the board’s recommendations need to be approved by U.S. Board of Geographic Names before any changes can take place.

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