In the last couple of years America has seen a deliberate attempt by the radical Left to erase its history. Statues were torn down during the riots in the summer of 2020, and the names of historical figures changed on public buildings and schools. This madness continues in surreptitious ways thanks to the woke efforts of federal bureaucrats such as Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland.
Secretary Haaland has gone to war against the word “squaw.” The “S” word (as I’ll refer to it going forward) has become one the latest words to attract the opprobrium of the PC language police. It has become for Native Americans what the “N” word is for African Americans, or the “F” word (not that “F” word, the other one) that so upsets LGBTQ folks.
Recently, Secretary Haaland (a member of New Mexico’s Pueblo Laguna) announced that the “S” word’s days are numbered: “Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands,” she said in a press release. “Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage — not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression.”
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in my home state of Idaho alone there are roughly 70 place names with the “S” word attached. There are S-Creeks, S-Meadows, S-Springs, S-Peaks, S-Buttes, lakes, canyons, reservoirs, etc. Further examination of those USGS numbers tells us that “S” word place names tally approximately 650 on the federal public lands. From Haaland’s point of view, they mar government topographic maps, road maps, trail maps, and handbooks acquired locally by visitors in Western tourist towns, and signage. The latter include signs at trailheads, and directional mileage signs along roadways and hiking trails. I don’t have an official number of those signs, but it seems to me they number in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.
The “S” word has Algonquin roots and has been with us since the 17th century. It’s a reflection of the traditional native patriarchal model prevalent among the tribes of the Americas. Methinks Deb Haaland doth protest too much.
The mountain men of the 19th century certainly adapted to native conjugal ways for the simple reason that there were few white women inhabiting their milieu. The acquisition (for lack of a better word) of a native wife usually required the suitor conduct business negotiations with fathers, brothers, or other male relatives (that patriarchal paradigm again) using the standard barter currency of horses, firearms, knives, blankets, cooking utensils, and so on. The mountain men paid dearly for their marital bliss.
Bernard DeVoto wrote that Jim Bridger was “three times an s-man” and fathered a number of children by his wives, who were consecutively Shoshone, Ute, and Flathead. Kit Carson killed a rival named Chouinard in a duel on horseback at the 1835 Green River Rendezvous, as they vied for the affections of an Arapaho woman named “Singing Grass.” And Joe Meek married a Shoshone woman named “Umentucken” (“The Mountain Lamb”), whom the literature describes as being possessed of great beauty coupled with a strong martial spirit, as she fought alongside her husband in a number of skirmishes. She would also loudly and proudly proclaim: “I am the wife of Meek!” to anyone inquiring as to her marital status, or otherwise annoying her. Joe was certainly not meek when he rescued her when she was captive of a rival tribe, riding into their camp like an “avenging spirit” (DeVoto). So the history shows us that the relationship between “S” and husband on the frontier was many times mutually beneficial.
The work required to correct this un-PC evil will be extensive. The aforementioned maps and guidebooks will need to be revised, both digitally and in hard copy, and — from a sheer physical labor point of view — signage and trail markers removed, replaced, or otherwise altered. The latter might make for gainful summer employment for woke college kids. Legions of overpaid bureaucratic drones might spend years on this project, at a cost of millions or even billions. The public lands agencies are notorious for wasting taxpayer largesse.
And it’s not only Department of the Interior personnel. The United States Forest Service (USFS) is a subsidiary agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and it will be charged to make the necessary changes on its own portion of the public domain. According to an article in the Idaho Falls Post-Register, the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming is already hard at work. Evan Guzik, a Bridger-Teton spokesman in Jackson, Wyoming, told the paper that his office is following federal guidelines:
We’ve started the process to identify all the geographic features with derogatory and offensive names. Once we have identified all the features, we will work with our public, local government, and tribal officials to find suitable replacements that honor the history of these locations while making them inclusive and welcoming to our visitors.
All this woke madness is still in the “task force” stage. As previously stated, the question remains exactly how much this will cost the taxpayers. And what of the future? Who or what is next? After all, if statues and memorials to the Founders can be removed, what about the equestrian statue of Kit Carson in Carson City, Nevada? Will the capital of Nevada have to change its name? Carson had a role in removing the Navajos to reservations in the 1860s. Will a territorial governor of Colorado named John Evans have his namesake peak (Mt. Evans, at 14,271 feet the twelfth highest in the state) taken from him for his support of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864? Will the city of Sheridan, Wyoming, have to change its name because Civil War hero General Philip Sheridan expertly prosecuted (despite George Armstrong Custer’s debacle at the Little Bighorn in 1876) the Plains Wars of the 1870s? Will Miles City, Montana, do likewise to erase the memory of General Nelson Miles, who presided over the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890?
Because that is what is coming next.