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Yurok Tribal Council asks federal government to revise racist place name

Tribe proposes pkwo'-o-lo' 'ue-merkw (Maple Peak) to replace incendiary term

The Yurok Tribal Council is petitioning the federal government to revise the exceedingly

inflammatory name of a mountain peak within Yurok ancestral territory.

Located in the coastal mountains, the peak is currently called Sq---Tit. The Tribe is asking the U.S. Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force to amend the name to pkwo'-o-lo' 'ue-merkw (Maple Peak). In November of 2021, US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland created a formal procedure to review and replace disparaging names of geographic features. The Secretary also ordered the Board on Geographic Names to remove the word Sq--- from the federal lexicon.

“This term is extremely offensive to every Native American in the US and it needs to be changed. Our people deserve to live in a world without racist place names,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “ I think the federal government will approve our request to change the name to pkwo'-o-lo' 'ue-merkw On behalf of the Yurok Tribe, I would like to thank Secretary Deb Haaland for establishing a path to remove hateful place names from the landscape and correct these longstanding injustices.”

On April 19, the Yurok Tribal Council passed a formal resolution regarding the peak name. The “sq----” word is a derogatory slur that has been used against Native people and is a type of colonial violence,” states the resolution.

The Tribe’s proposal to replace the peak name is part of a national movement to remove racist place titles from public spaces. Across the US, numerous tribes are currently seeking to replace repugnant designations for geographic locations with tribal descriptors. The Yurok Tribe fully supports the tribal nations that are working to correct these historic violations.

Last year, the Tribe worked with California State Parks to successfully alter the name of Patrick’s Point State Park to reflect the name of the Yurok village it occupies. The park is now officially designated Sue meg State Park. The park was previously named after Patrick Beegan, a colonist who committed acts of violence against Yurok people. During the public comment session for the Tribe’s proposal to change the park name, hundreds of local residents from all sectors of the community voiced overwhelming support.

To hear the pronunciation of pkwo'-o-lo' 'ue-merkw, please scan code.

*Recording courtesy of the Yurok Language Program.

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