Lander Council discussed next steps in Squaw Creek name change at Tuesday work session

(Lander, WY) – The Lander City Council convened for a work session last night, where the next steps in the Squaw Creek name change were discussed.

As previously reported, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland issued Secretarial Order No. 3404, and the term “Squaw” has been officially declared a derogatory term.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) is now implementing procedures to remove the term from federal usage, in terms of geographic locations.

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For Lander, the lone location in City jurisdiction to include the word is “Squaw Creek,” which is currently on the DOI’s list of proposed changes.

At the March 8th Council meeting, Member Julia Stuble suggested taking time during last night’s work session to discuss the matter, and Lander citizens packed the Council Chambers to listen in.

County 10 photo

The discussion began with Mayor Monte Richardson reiterating that the name change is the DOI’s decision, not the Council’s doing, and they wanted to use the meeting to inform the community on how folks could weigh in on the matter.

While there was no public comment at the work session, community members were encouraged to reach out to Council with suggestions and thoughts on the matter.

(Community members can also submit written comments online here by entering “DOI-2022-0001” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” during the DOI’s public comment period, as noted in our previous post. The comment period ends April 25th.)

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Questions were raised as to how much sway the public/Council input would have with the DOI, and if a name suggestion should be submitted as a cohesive group, but ultimately it will be left up to the DOI, which also has its own potential name change candidates.

Council also clarified confusion that the name change would affect Squaw Creek Road, noting that the Order will only change the name of the actual geographic feature, not the road, and that if a road name change were to occur, it would be up to the County to decide.

Council Member Stuble noted that Tribal Historic Preservation Officers from both the Northern Arapahoe and Eastern Shoshone Tribes were invited to the meeting, but were unable to attend.

However, Wade LeBeau, an Eastern Shoshone Tribal member who served in the US military, was given the chance to speak on behalf of the Tribe.

“I think it would be a good step forward, to strongly consider a name that would come from the Shoshone Tribe,” LeBeau stated, later citing the possibility of using animal names or specific physical distinctions of the area like the Shoshone of years past would do.

LeBeau also commented that he reached out to many Shoshone elders to see if there was ever an original name for Squaw Creek, but either the creek never had a name or it was “lost to time.”

In terms of whether or not people think the term Squaw is offensive, LeBeau stated that if one were to say that term to an elder Native, they could “see about how fast they would get slapped.”

LeBeau concluded by offering his services to visit the creek to look for distinctions that might inspire a new name, along with fellow Eastern Shoshone Tribe member and elder Michial Garvin, who was also in attendance and spoke on the issue.

“All of these rivers, these mountains, everything around here, had Shoshone names, and I believe that it should return to a Shoshone name,” Garvin commented, before adding that the reason Squaw Creek never had a Shoshone name initially was because it was too small to warrant one.

Mayor Richardson then stated that Council will accept LeBeau and Garvin’s suggestions once they have come up with them.

As the discussion concluded, Council Member Missy White reminded those in attendance that whatever suggestion the Council decides upon will need to be sent to the DOI by April 25th, and to either reach out to the Council or submit their suggestions directly to the DOI before that date.

The Council will next convene on April 12th.

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