Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Change Squaw Hill to Chewh-toowh-too-peh Hill
Broadwater County, Montana

Status = Approved

Description summit, elevation 1,347 m (4,419 ft), located 1.6 km (1 mi) SE of Plunket Lake, 28 km (18 mi) S of Townsend; the name is of Salish origin meaning “confluence of several rivers”
Location 46°03’59”N, 111°33’57”W
PLSS Location Sec 26, T4N, R1E
Proposal to change a name considered by some to be derogatory
Proponent Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes; Pablo, MT
Not Squaw Hill
Administrative area None
Previous BGN Action None
See also
GNIS ID 806220
Local Usage None found
Published Squaw Hill (USGS 1986)
This is the first of 25 proposals submitted by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), to change officially the names of geographic features in Montana named “Squaw,” a term that the CSKT finds “offensive and derogatory.” Six of these proposed changes are included on this docket.

The name Squaw Hill applies currently to a 1,347 m (4,419 ft) summit in southern Broadwater County, approximately 28 km (18 mi) south of Townsend. The origin of the name has not been determined; the earliest map on which it has been located is the 1986 USGS topographic map. The proposed replacement name, Chewh-toowh-too-peh Hill, is of Salish origin, and according to the proponent means “confluence of several rivers.” He adds, “The area was the traditional home of one of the five principal Salish bands.” This proposed change has the support of the Montana House Bill 412 “Squaw Name Change” Advisory Committee and the American Indian Caucus of the Montana State Legislature. The Broadwater County Commissioners have no objection, while the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Montana State Names Authority are in support. A copy of this proposal was sent to the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation of Montana; the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community; the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; and the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, all of which are Federally-recognized Tribes, but no response was received, which is presumed to indicate a lack of an opinion to the name change.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Support (Sunday, February 3, 2008)
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Thursday, May 8, 2008
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded to approve this change.

This proposal, the first of several on the docket to change “Squaw” names, generated much discussion amongst the committee members. Fagan announced that he is considering writing a proposal to change unilaterally all names containing the word “Squaw” to “Indian Woman,” but first wanted to know if there would be any support for this from the other committee members. He said that scholars who have studied the origins of the word have concluded that it was not intended to be pejorative, but nevertheless it is now widely perceived as an objectionable word. Although he would prefer to leave the “squaw” names intact, it has become a foregone conclusion that the committee will be inclined to approve requests to change the name. If the committee continues to approach each case one-by-one, it will require a long and laborious effort and impose a considerable burden on the DNC staff. It will also result in proposed substitute names that are difficult to pronounce and/or have no relationship to the original meaning. Substituting “Indian Woman” would avoid both these problems, and anyone who did not like “Indian Woman” would still be free to propose a name change in the usual manner. He noted that the BGN, if it should approve his proposal and enact such a universal change, should post a notice of its intent to do so in the Federal Register, and be prepared to receive extensive public comment. Since tribes with languages of Algonquian origin apparently do not find the word offensive, the BGN protocol should give staff the authority to return the name to “squaw” whenever requested by tribal authorities. The BGN protocol, if approved, would not extend to the names of “administrative” (cultural) features, the renaming of which would be under the purview of the agency that administers them. Several of the members shared their views both for and against such a proposal, but all agreed that it should be considered and that much more investigation and analysis is needed. Fagan agreed that it would be prudent to discuss the issue with the Secretary of the Interior’s office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Loy asked Fagan to prepare a written proposal for the BGN’s consideration over the next few months. He also recommended the topic be discussed at the COGNA conference in September, so Yost will ask the COGNA Executive Secretary to schedule a session on the agenda (not as part of the DNC meeting or the State-Federal Roundtable).

The aforementioned motion was reaffirmed and the Chairman called for the vote.
Vote: 11 in favor
0 against
0 abstentions

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