CANYON CITY – The  board considering replacements for “squaw” in Grant County names probably won’t make a final decision before next year.

Grant County Judge Mark Webb recently sent a letter objecting to the names proposed as replacements by the Umatilla Indian Reservation Tribes. 

The Tribes’ proposal sparked concerns from Grant County residents who felt the proposed names – such as Waqiima Creek and Wiwaanaytt Meadow – were obscure and difficult to spell and pronounce.

Webb said he was not opposed to Indian names in general, but was concerned that the process seemed to disregard the wishes of the local population.

Sharon Nesbit, president of the Oregon Geographic Names Board, said the process has been under way for some time to rename “squaw” features. But she also said that when there are alternative proposals, the board “almost always delays action.”

She had asked that people comment on the Umatilla proposals before the next board meeting, set for Saturday, Oct. 30, in Troutdale.

However, she expects that with the county’s intervention, the board will want to continue the discussion to its mid-2011 meeting.

“It’s a slow process,” she said.

  Meanwhile, Nesbit confirmed that she has received a request from local residents regarding one feature in particular. 

Rod Kuhn said last week that he and some other Grant County residents feel that if Squaw Rock, near Indian Rock, is to be renamed, a good alternative would be Donaldson Rock.

A nearby mine already bears the name of Donaldson, a Prairie City family, Kuhn said.

The Umatilla proposal for that outcrop was Ha’ayatom Piswe Rock, which translates as “women’s rock.”

Nesbit said the volunteer board looks for new names that reflect history and are original.

The Tribes also proposed renaming Indian Rock to Haamanm Piswe Rock, or “man’s rock.” That suggestion has drawn stronger opposition from some Grant County residents.

Nesbit said the board is not under a state mandate to expunge “Indian” from the geographic names, as it is for “squaw.” The fact that Indian Rock is considered a prominent feature in the county could be a good argument for keeping the existing name, she said.

Residents can comment on the names by e-mail to snesbit@aol.com.

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