Democrat lawmakers are moving to rename places around the nation that they claim have racist history or bigoted names. But included in the review will be the names of cities, states and other locations that have “appropriated” Native culture by even using the language.
U.S. Sens. Ed J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act, which was originally introduced in 2020 with then-Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.).
The legislation creates a board to oversee the naming of more than 1,000 towns, lakes, streams, creeks, and mountain peaks across the U.S. that have, “offensive names that celebrate people who have upheld slavery, committed unspeakable acts against Native Americans, or led Confederate war efforts.”
The effort would also look critically at museums, hospitals, schools or other organization names that receive federal funding.
The board would also seek to change names based on works “making many feel unwelcome.”
The liberal senator went on to say the purpose of the bill is to end expressions of systemic racism, bigotry, and dismantling white supremacy from American society.
In the House, the bill is being sponsored by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) and has 25 cosponsors.
If passed the bill would authorize the creation of an advisory board consisting of people from civil rights organizations, race relation experts, and tribal members.
The advisory board would then accept proposals from tribal nations, state and local governments, and members of the public, and would provide an opportunity for the public to comment on name change proposals.
After public input, the advisory board would make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names on geographic features to be renamed and to Congress on renaming Federal land features.
Another place that would be renamed is now called the Negro Bar State Park, near Sacramento, CA, which is named for Black miners during the Gold Rush era.
It is not known if the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. would also come under the chopping block.
Michael Harris the president of the Friends of Negro Bar believes changing the name would be eliminating history.
“I don’t know why people are offended by the word negro,” said Harris. “After 172 years, it has been Negro Bar.”
The Reconciliation in Place Names Act has been endorsed by some civil rights and conservation groups including, the National Congress of American Indians, The Wilderness Society, Hispanic Access Foundation, Native Outdoors, Defenders of Wildlife, The Geological Society of America, and The American Geophysical Union.
Debate is beginning if Congress can force towns, cities and states to change their “racist” names. Many names were actually given by Native Americans. Some say the act of using any word from the dozens of Native dialects constitutes cultural “appropriation” and must be changed.
Here’s a list of states that may have “racist names” but which were often named by Native Americans:
Named after the Alibamu tribe of Indians who were members of the Creek Confederacy. Literally, it means “clears the thicket.”
From the word “Alakshak’ which means peninsula.
This one’s uncertain but may derive from a word meaning “small springs.”
From the expression “quinnitukg-ut” which means “at the long tidal river.”
From the words “Havaiki” or “Hawaiki,” which was the legendary name of the original Polynesian homeland.
Derived from one of three sources and meaning one of three things:
- Comanche “Idahi”
- Shoshone “ee-dah-how” which means something like “Good Morning”
- Salmon River Tribe of Indians “Ida” means salmon and “ho” means tribe so we might be saying “Salmon eaters”.
From “ilhiniwek” or “illiniwek”. “Illini” meant “man” and “iwek” makes the word plural, so, literally, “men.”
Named after the Ioway Indians.
Named after the Kansa Indians.
Means one of three things: meadow lands, cane and turkey lands, or dark and bloody ground.
An Indian word meaning “about the big hill.”
From the Chippewa Indian word “Michigama” meaning “large lake.”
From the Dakota Indian word “Minisota” meaning “white water.”
From the Choctaw word meaning “Great water” or “Father of Waters.”
“Town of the large canoes.”
From the Oto Indian word meaning “flat water.”
17. New Mexico
Named after Mexico, of course. Means “place of the Mexica.” One source says that it’s derived from the name “Mertili” who was an Aztec god.
From the Iroquois word meaning “beautiful.”
From the Chocraw word meaning “red people.”
20 and 21. South and North Dakota
This used to all simply be called the Dakota Territory. The Indian word “Dahkota” means “friends” or “allies”.
From the Cherokee “Tanasi” which was a village. The word means one of three things: “meeting place”, “winding river”, or “river of the great bend”.
A Caddo Indian word meaning “allies.”
Derived from the Ute Indian word “Yuta” meaning “people who live high in the mountains.”
From the word “Wishkonsing” meaning “place of the beaver.”
“On the Great Plain.”