(Note: Revised to correct reference to Gregg Smith, who is a Keizer resident and former Grant County resident - but not the state representative cited in the original article.)

CANYON CITY - The Grant County Court is urging federal officials to take a new - and more local - look at the process to replace "squaw" names on features in the county.

The Court noted its concerns in a Jan. 11 letter to Lou Yost, executive secretary of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in Reston, Va.

"We reiterate our support for removing geographic names that area tribes consider offensive or derogatory," the letter said. "That effort, though, must be carried out in a manner that respects area communities and addresses local concerns as well. That has not happened."

The letter was signed by County Judge Mark Webb and Commissioners Scott Myers and Boyd Britton.

The Oregon Geographic Names Board, a volunteer state panel, wrapped up its work on the Grant County names at a meeting in November in Gresham, recommending replacements for about a dozen "squaw" features and Indian Rock. The replacements were proposed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla; the final decision will be made at the federal level.

Among the changes recommended by the Oregon board, Indian Rock would become HÃamanm PÃswe Rock, which translates as Man's Rock, and Squaw Rock would be Ha'Ãyatom PÃswe Rock, or Woman's Rock.

Grant County's letter contends that local interests "were not just under-represented, they were unrepresented, given OGNB's board makeup."

Other issues:

• The state panel failed to follow the federal criteria for new names.

• The process didn't address concerns raised by local officials.

• The proposed names "lack plausible evidence of active, local use or other substantial historical ties to the sites in question."

• The diacritical marks and native pronunciation will be difficult for the public and those involved in search and rescue efforts.

The letter called for a more well-rounded dialogue.

"Arguably the best way to eliminate the use of geographic names deemed offensive is to ensure that the public embraces alternatives based on merit," the letter states.

The Court asked for a local town hall to discuss the names and urged the federal board to reject the current proposal "so that the right kind of dialogue might ensue, the right selections occur."

Webb told the Court Jan. 11 that the letter grew out of discussions with Gregg Smith, a former Grant County resident, who had looked into the process and found differences in the way the state and national boards made their decisions.

Given that finding, Webb said he thinks a fresh look "is worth pursuing."

 

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