Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Change Squaw Creek to Skwoom-tsin Creek
Beaverhead County, Montana

Status = Denied

Description stream, 15 km (9 mi) long, heads in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mountains Wilderness Study Area at 45o45’31”N, 113o11’47”W, flows NW to join the Big Hole River 23 km (14 mi) NE of Wisdom; the word Skwoom-tsin is of Salish origin and refers to the pocket gopher
Location 45°48’30”N, 113°19’47”W
PLSS Location Unsurveyed area, and Tps 1S&1N, R14W
Proposal to change a name considered by some to be derogatory
Proponent Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes; Pablo, MT
Not Squaw Creek
Administrative area Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mts Wilderness Study Area
Previous BGN Action None
See also 38306, 39101, 39102, 39202, 39203, 39301, 39619
GNIS ID 791376
Local Usage None found
Published Squaw Creek (USGS 1962, 1976, 1990, 1994; DeLorme Mapping Montana Atlas & Gazetteer, 1994; SummitPost website)
These proposals were both submitted as replacement names for Squaw Creek, a 15 km (9 mi) long stream that heads in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mountains Wilderness Study Area and flows northwest to join the Big Hole River in northern Beaverhead County. The origin of the stream’s current name has not been determined; the earliest map on which it has been located is the 1962 USGS topographic map. Other proposals have been submitted to change the name of nearby Squaw Lake to either Lovell Lake or Skwoom-tsin Lake (q.v.).

The BGN has been asked by another area resident to change the name of the stream to Jurds Creek (Review List 391) in honor of Jurd Williams, but the proponent of the change to Christiansen Creek believes the intended honoree of that name was not sufficiently well known in the valley nor did he reside there long. The proponents of this change have also submitted a request to change Squaw Lake to Christiansen Lake (q.v.). The Beaverhead County Commissioners and the Montana State Geographic Names Authority, which had previously endorsed the proposal for Jurds Creek, have both withdrawn their support and now recommend approval of Christiansen Creek. The Jurds Creek proposal has been withdrawn.

The first proposal, for Christiansen Creek, was submitted by two residents of Anaconda, who own property along the stream and in the vicinity of Squaw Lake. Although the proponents do not support the Montana House Bill 412 Committee’s efforts to eliminate the word “Squaw,” they suggest that if the features must be renamed, the replacements should honor families that have lived and ranched in the area for a length of time. Matt Christiansen (1870-1945), the proponents’ grandfather, settled in the valley in 1912 and his two sons continued to operate the ranch for many years. As the proponent notes, “They were good stewards of the land, taking pride in it and keeping it in pristine condition. They spent their lives there becoming solidly entrenched in the community of the Big Hole Valley.” The Beaverhead County Commissioners, the Montana State Geographic Names Authority, and the U.S. Forest Service are in support of the change to Christiansen Creek.

The second proposal, for Skwoom-tsin Creek, was submitted as one of 25 changes by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, who believe the word “Squaw” is derogatory and should be changed. The word Skwoom-tsin is of Salish origin and according to the Tribes, “is based on [the] traditional Salish name for [the] Big Hole River & area; refers to pocket gopher, rodent native to area.” They add, “The name is detailed in The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (U. Nebraska Press, 2005). The area was traditional home of one of five principal bands of Salish.” This proposal has the support of the Montana House Bill 412 “Squaw Name Change” Advisory Committee and the American Indian Caucus of the Montana State Legislature. A copy of both proposals was also sent to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, and the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada, but no response was received which is presumed to indicate a lack of an opinion on the issue.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Oppose
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded to approve the proposal for Christiansen Creek, citing the support of the County government, the State Names Authority, and the Federal land management agency.

Vote: 6 in favor
3 against
1 abstention

The negative votes were cast in the belief that the Salish name was a suitable replacement and in support of the Montana House Bill 412 “Squaw Name Change” Committee.

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