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28 lakes and streams to be renamed in Wisconsin due to derogatory word against Native American women

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Posted at 3:43 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 14:12:43-04

MADISON, Wis. — In our Two Americas series we look at the America you know and the one you might not. We dive into why issues exist, and the efforts to find solutions.

This includes a derogatory word used in names for lakes and creeks in Wisconsin.

All of the red marks you see on this U.S. Geological Survey are locations that the United State Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland plans to rename (click here if the map does not load properly).

It is because the word included in all of these marked locations is related to a racist term against Native American women. 28 are in Wisconsin.

The number would have been 29 — if this bay near our State Capitol was not renamed in 2019. "This was "Sq--" Bay," said Kris Goodwill, Statewide Tribal Liason for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Today, it is called Monona Bay, right next to Lake Monona. It took more than a decade of hurdles for the Ho-Chunk Nation to have the name changed, saying the word "Sq--" has always been a derogatory term.

The origin of the s-word has been traced to a Native American tribe where the word may have translated to "woman." However, its meaning has been skewed by colonists starting in the 1600s.

"I was called that as a child and it wasn't meant as a compliment," said Goodwill about her classmates in second grade.

Which is why Goodwill is relieved. U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland recently signed an order that will remove so many tedious steps to changing the names of all geographical landmarks.

"Are you surprised it took a Native American woman who finally got that seat to make this change?" asked TMJ4's Julia Fello. Goodwill replied, "It is long overdue, and I think about young native girls like me who shouldn't have to hear that word because it makes you feel less than."

Haaland created a federal task force to find alternate names. This included some tribal consultation meetings in Wisconsin, according to Goodwill.

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One lake west of Appleton, for example, could be renamed from "Sq--" Lake to 'Rat River' or 'Black Otter Lake.'

Goodwill says this is just the first wave of identifying archaic word like this one. "Are there other derogatory words that are used?" asked Fello. Her response:

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Those other words will be addressed in a later phase. You can still weigh in on the current name changes surrounding the s-word. Public comment is available until Monday, April 25, 2022. Comments can be submitted online here by entering ‘‘DOI–2022–0001’’ in the search bar and clicking ‘‘Search".

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The plan is for all of the names to be changed at once by September.

Hear from Goodwill about one lake in particular that may be changed, even after September:

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