A lake in Chelan County could become Little Wenatchee River. A creek in Okanogan County could become Gooseberry Meadow.

These name changes are part of an effort from the U.S. Department of Interior to rename geographic locations in Washington and other states that include the term “squaw” — which was formally declared derogatory by the secretary of the interior.

The public has until April 25 to comment on six choices for each replacement name.

There are 18 locations in Washington that contain the slur, which is considered racist and sexist to Native and Indigenous women. Experts have said the word, derived from the Algonquin language, may have once meant “woman,” but over time it morphed into a disparaging term, according to The Associated Press.

The new options for names highlight nearby geographic features, according to the Interior Department. For example, one mesa in Arizona is located near Castle Crew. A candidate for the replacement name is Castle Mesa.

Residents may submit written comments to the Interior Department at regulations.gov or by mail.


In addition to federal outreach to tribes, Washington is sending written messages to the tribal nations within the state to allow them extra time and space to comment on the changes. A state committee has been working for decades to remove the offensive term from geographic locations, said Kenny Ocker, communications manager for the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Washington has a history of renaming geographic locations. In 2018, the state renamed the Iron Horse State Park Trail and John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which runs through Southwest Washington, to the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail. The decision aligned the trail with state parks policy that gives preference to names that highlight geographic location, geology, archaeology and history.

King County was originally named for William Rufus de Vane King, who served as vice president under President Franklin Pierce. He was a U.S. representative from North Carolina and a senator from Alabama.

William King also owned a cotton plantation in Alabama, and his family enslaved more than 500 people.

Former Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a state Senate bill in 2005 to dedicate the county’s name in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., an idea initially championed by King County Councilmembers Ron Sims and Bruce Laing in the 1980s.

Recently, some residents have also pushed to change or rededicate the name of the state of Washington.