Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

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

Status = Denied

Description lake, 4.8 acres, in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mountains Wilderness Study Area, 2.4 km (1.5 mi) NW of Foolhen Mountain, 24 km (15 mi) NE of Wisdom; the word Skwoom-tsin is of Salish origin and refers to the pocket gopher
Location 45°45’27N, 113°13’20W
PLSS Location Sec 9&16, T1S, R13W
Proposal to change a name considered by some to be derogatory
Proponent Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes; Pablo, MT
Not Squaw Lake
Administrative area Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mts Wilderness Study Area
Previous BGN Action None
See also 38306, 39101, 39102, 39202, 39203, 39301, 39618
GNIS ID 791383
Local Usage None found
Published Squaw Lake (USGS 1962, 1990; SummitPost website)
Two proposals were considered to change the name of Squaw Lake, a 4-acre body of water in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest/West Pioneer Mountains Wilderness Study Area in northern Beaverhead County. The lake lies along a short unnamed tributary of a stream that was formerly named Squaw Creek but which was renamed by the BGN in September to Christiansen Creek. Three earlier proposals, to change the lake’s name to Jurds Lake, Indian Woman Lake, or Christiansen Lake, were withdrawn.

The first proposal, for Lovell Lake, was submitted by a resident of Medicine Lake. Although the proponent does not support the Montana House Bill 412 “Squaw Name Change” Advisory Committee’s efforts to eliminate the word “Squaw,” he suggests that if the lake must be renamed, the replacement should honor families that have lived and ranched in the area for a length of time. Lovell Lake is intended to honor Charles Lovell (d. 1949), who settled in the area in 1912, and who until his death in 1949 lived in a cabin adjoining the lake. The Beaverhead County Commissioners and the U.S. Forest Service are in support of the change to Lovell Lake. The Montana State Geographic Names Authority was also initially in support of Lovell Lake, but after a reevaluation of the intent of the HB 412 Committee’s legislation, the State decided to reverse its position and now supports the following counter-proposal.

The second proposal, for Skwoom-tsin Lake, was submitted by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Skwoom-tsin is of Salish origin and is "based on traditional Salish name for Big Hole River and area; refers to pocket gopher." This proposal has the support of the Montana House Bill 412 Advisory Committee and the American Indian Caucus of the Montana State Legislature.

A decision on these proposals was deferred by the BGN at its September meeting, after it was noted that there is another lake in Beaverhead County, approximately 50 miles from the lake in question, that is named Lovells Lake. Some members expressed concern that the names are too similar and might cause confusion. Research shows that Lovells Lake, which has appeared on USGS topographic maps since 1979, was named for Phillip Lovell, who homesteaded there around 1868. The proponent for Lovell Lake has not found any evidence that Phillip Lovell and Charles Lovell were related. When asked to comment on the situation, the Beaverhead County Commissioners stated that they would not object to the existence of Lovells Lake and Lovell Lake “because they are located so far apart and because Lovells Lake is a private lake.”

Also listed in GNIS in Beaverhead County are Lovell Island, Lovell School (historical), and Lovells Gulch.

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 - Support (Thursday, September 18, 2008)
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - A motion was made and seconded to approve the proposal for Lovell Lake.

Vote: 8 in favor
4 against
0 abstentions

The negative votes were cast in support of the Montana State Names Authority and the Montana House Bill 412 Committee, both of which had endorsed the Salish name.

The Board also voted on this name on 9/3/2008:
A motion was made and seconded to approve the proposal for Lovell Lake.
Vote: 5 in favor
5 against
0 abstentions

The negative votes reflected a concern that there is another lake in the same county, approximately 50 miles away, that is named Lovells Lake. The question arose as to whether “Lovell” and “Lovells” are truly duplicative. The Chairman declined to break the tie, suggesting that more investigation is needed and that the issue should be deferred to the October meeting. The staff was instructed to contact all parties to determine if they were aware of the “duplicate” name and whether its existence might be a factor in their recommendations.

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