Locals say if lake name is offensive to Native Americans, change it – The Oakland Press

Impressive houses surround a clear blue lake in Oxford Township.

Quays protrude into the water, anchoring large boats of all kinds.

People sit quietly in a rowboat, waiting for the fish to bite on a sunny September afternoon.

Many who frequent Squ–Lake in southwest Oxford Township are unaware that her name is considered an offensive term for Native American women.

The US Department of the Interior said the location of Oxford Township and about 650 other lakes, streams and other places across the country must change the offending name.

Ray Carr of Oxford, using a public lakeside boat launch, said he was unaware the term was offensive.

But if it’s offensive, change it, he said.

Others dined at a McDonald’s area okay.

Like Carr, Deborah Hadley was unaware the term was offensive, but agreed it should be changed.

“They were here before us,” she said of Native Americans. “Why we can’t respect them, I don’t know. And we don’t respect them.

Hadley lives in Rochester Hills, but has lived in the Oxford area for years. She was accompanied by her daughter, Tambra Santis, also from the Oxford area. She lives in Maine and is on extended visits with her mother.

In Maine, she says, many place names honor Native Americans using their native language. She would like to see more of that in Michigan.

The offensive term originated in the Algonquin language and may have once simply meant “woman.” But over time, the word has devolved into a misogynistic and racist term to denigrate Indigenous women, experts say.

US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency, declared the derogatory term last November. She ordered members of the Board on Geographic Names, the panel that oversees uniform naming of places, and others to come up with alternatives for the nearly 650 locations featuring the offending word.

The location of Oxford Township will be renamed Paint Lake, according to a statement from the Department of the Interior.

The changes were announced last week and capped a year-long process to change names, with the cooperation of Native American groups.

These include Colorado’s Mestaa’ėhehe Pass (pronounced “mess-taw-HAY”) near Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain, about 30 miles west of Denver. The new name honors an influential translator, Owl Woman, who mediated between Native Americans and white traders and soldiers.

While the offensive term in question has only recently met with much criticism, the changing of place names in response to growing opposition has a long precedent.

The ministry ordered the renaming of places bearing a derogatory term for black people in 1962 and those bearing a derogatory term for Japanese people in 1974.

In some cases, companies have taken the initiative to change the offensive term for Aboriginal women. Last year, a California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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