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18 sites across WA contain a slur for Indigenous women in their name, but not for long

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The names of our cities, landmarks and geographic features can tell us a lot about the history of our communities.

But when you name something - it's impossible to look into the future and determine if those words will always carry the same weight and meaning.

That's the case with over 650 sites across our country that will now need to change their name because they have a derogatory term for Indigenous women in their title.

The word translates to "woman" in the Algonquian language. But it was twisted over centuries of use by white colonists, and today, it's considered an offensive slur.

Here in Washington, the state Committee on Geographic Names is looking to the public to help them determine new names for 18 different lakes, creeks, mountains and valleys that will need to be updated to comply with a secretarial order issued by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in December 2021.

Soundside host Libby Denkmann spoke to Sara Palmer, chair of the Washington state Committee on Geographic Names, and Mike Iyall, a committee member representing Washington state tribes and member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

We also heard from Mary Big Bull-Lewis, an Indigenous entrepreneur and member of the Colville Confederated Tribes of the Wenatchi, Moses and Entiat bands.

You can learn more about the committee's renaming process on the Washington state Department of Resources' website.

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