N. Idaho tribe wants “squaw” place names changed

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (AP) 9-07

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names is scheduled to vote next week on removing the word “squaw” from three place names on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in northern Idaho and renaming them with suggestions from the tribe.

“We worked really hard to make these names pronounceable,” Frank Roberts, manager for the tribe’s geographic information systems, told The Spokesman-Review.

Five other place names that use the word squaw outside the reservation, but in the tribe’s ancestral territory, might also be voted on, the newspaper reported.

In English, the word squaw means an American Indian woman, but in various American Indian languages the word is a derogatory term.

The three up for changes at the board’s meeting on September 6th in Washington, D.C., are all in Kootenai County. Two are currently named Squaw Creek, and would be changed to Squeatah Creek and Nehchen Creek. The third, Squaw Hump, would be changed to Nehchen Bluff.

Nehchen, also known at Ann Marie Moctelme, was the wife of the last hereditary Coeur d’Alene chief.

Squeatah, who was also known as Mary Massislaw, was an Upper Spokane Indian relocated to the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

The Board of Geographic Names might also vote on up to five other changes approved in July by the Idaho Geographic Names Board. That board voted 4-2 to remove the word “squaw” from five place names and rename them with suggestions from the tribe.

One possible change is Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Squaw Bay to Neachen Bay, which refers to the one-time hunting method of driving deer into the lake.

Other new names would be Steamchet Creek in Kootenai County, and, in Shoshone County, Chimeash Creek, Spotwean Peak, and Lockensuit Spring.

Chimeash is a young woman of good character, steamchet means eldest daughter, spotwean is a matriarch, and lockensuit is a sweat lodge.

Members on the Idaho Geographic Names Board who voted in favor of the name changes were Judy Meyer, of Hayden Lake; Jesse Walters, of Boise; Eugene Place, of Hamer; and Fred Walters, of Cambridge.

Voting against the changes were Earl Bennett, of Genesee, and Bert Marley, of McCammon. Both said they weren’t against changing the names, but didn’t like the proposed new names.

In October, the Idaho Geographic Names Board will consider renaming two other Squaw Creeks, both in Clearwater County, that could become Seastem (sister-in-law) and Teakweh (aunt).

Information from: The Spokesman-Review,