Sokaogon Chippewa Community News
Tribal Historic Preservation Program Updates
By Michael LaRonge, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
On November 19, 2021, Secretary of Interior Haaland issued two Executive Orders – #3404 and #3405 – directing her staff to address the use of the offensive word in place names nationwide and more specifically the offensive reference to Native American women, referred to during internal Department of Interior (DOI) meetings as the “Sq_” word.
In the past, similar actions regarding specific racial slurs were taken prior by the DOI to address place names using derogatory terminology against African Americans in 1962 and Japanese Americans in 1974. As part of the federally required consultation with Tribes the DOI issued a table of 665 place names nationwide using the “Sq_” epithet. The list included five recommended alternate names for each place, but DOI staff was also directed to give precedence to recommendations from Tribal Communities.
At the direction of Tribal Council, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) examined the list and identified one such name in Forest County just southwest of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Reservation; a small creek connecting Bishop Lake and Swamp Creek to the south.
The issue was brought to the Tribal Community Cultural Committee. The Committee discussed options and by consensus recommended that the name be changed to Nigig Ziibins (Otter Creek); to simultaneously use Ojibwemoin and honor Chief Nigig, one of the Tribe’s past leaders.
The Tribal Council approved the recommendation and the new name was submitted to the DOI on April 23, 2022. On Thursday, September 8th, the THPO was notified that the name changes recommended for the entire list were approved by the Bureau of Geographic Names.
Although it will take some time for the name Nigig Ziibins to appear on online mapping programs and printed maps, it is certainly a small step forward to both address one of the public faces of systemic racism and honor the federal government’s trust responsibility to Tribes.
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