Yurok tribe petitions federal government to change offensive name of local mountain | Lost coastal outpost

Press release from the Yurok tribe:

The Yurok Tribal Council is asking the federal government to revise the highly inflammatory name of a mountain peak within Yurok ancestral territory.

The peak is in the Coast Mountains and is currently called Sq–Tit. The tribe is asking the US Task Force on Derogatory Geographical Names to change the name to pkwo’-o-lo’ ‘ue-merkw (Maple Peak). In November 2021, US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland created a formal process for reviewing and replacing derogatory names of geographic features. The Secretary also ordered the Board on Geographic Names to remove the word Sq—- from the federal lexicon.

How to pronounce “pkwo’-o-lo’ ‘ue-merkw”.

Recording from the Yurok voice program

“This term is extremely offensive to any Native American in the United States and needs to be changed. Our people deserve to live in a world without racist place names,” said Joseph L. James, Yurok Tribe leader. “I think the federal government will approve our request to change the name to pkwo’-o-lo’ ‘ue-merkw. On behalf of the Yurok tribe, I would like to thank Secretary Deb Haaland for finding a way to remove hateful place names from the landscape and right these longstanding injustices.”

On April 19, the Yurok Tribal Council passed a formal resolution regarding the summit name. “The word ‘sq—-‘ is a derogatory slur used against indigenous people and represents a type of colonial violence,” the resolution reads.

The tribe’s proposal to replace the peak name is part of a national movement to remove racist place names from public spaces. Numerous tribes in the United States are currently attempting to replace repugnant names for geographic locations with tribal descriptions. The Yurok tribe wholeheartedly supports the tribal nations who are working to rectify these historical injuries.

Last year, the tribe worked with California State Parks to successfully change the name of “Patrick’s Point State Park” to reflect the name of the Yurok village it occupies. The park is now officially designated as Sue-meg State Park. The park was previously named after Patrick Beegan, a colonist who committed acts of violence against the Yurok people. During public comment on the tribe’s proposal to change the park’s name, hundreds of residents from all walks of life expressed overwhelming support.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tribal adviser and the California Natural Resources Agency signed a formal letter of support to the US Task Force on Derogatory Geographical Names supporting the tribe’s efforts to replace the name Sq–Tit with the Yurok term pkwo’- o-lo to replace ‘ ‘ue-mark. In addition, there is broad local support for renaming the summit. To formally request the name change, Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James sent a letter to the task force. “We believe there is strong support to change names commemorating the violence against the Yurok people and the Indian people. Changing the offending names intended for geographic features within the Yurok Ancestral Territory to the Yurok Tribe recommended names will bring some healing to our community and continue the process of addressing historical grievances,” Chairman James wrote.

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