5 areas in Placer County renamed to scrub racist term for Native women

Staff Report
Washeshu Creek and Washeshu Peak have had their names changed.
Provided/Grant Kaye via Palisades Tahoe

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The U.S. government has ordered the renaming of hundreds of peaks, lakes, streams and other geographical features on federal lands to erase a racist term for Native American women, including five places in Placer County and two in El Dorado County.

New names for about 650 places bearing the offensive word “squaw” have been changed.

In Placer County the racist word has been scrubbed and new names include Washeshu Creek and Washeshu Peak — Washeshu is a Washoe word for “the people” — Papakum Pakan Flat, Olympic Valley, Uti Flat and Mani’pa Gulch.

“We are eager to embrace Washeshu Peak and Washeshu Creek,” said Palisades Tahoe on social media. The resort last year took the lead and dumped the racist term in its name. 

In El Dorado County, the new names for areas include Kapa Hollow and Hunchup Creek near Diamond Springs.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement, “I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long.” 

The changes announced Thursday capped an almost yearlong process that began after Haaland, the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency, took office in 2021. Haaland is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

The Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit legal organization, welcomed the changes, the Associated Press reported.

“Federal lands should be welcoming spaces for all citizens,” deputy director Matthew Campbell said in a statement. “It is well past time for derogatory names to be removed and tribes to be included in the conversation.”

Haaland in November declared the term derogatory and ordered members of the Board on Geographic Names, the Interior Department panel that oversees uniform naming of places in the U.S., and others to come up with alternatives.

Haaland meanwhile created a panel that will take suggestions from the public on changing other places named with derogatory terms.

California, meanwhile, has taken its own steps to remove the word from place names. The state Legislature in August passed a bill that would remove the word from more than 100 places beginning in 2025.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until the end of September to decide whether to sign the bill into law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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