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Squaw Creek may get new less offensive name

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 3:42 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Squaw Creek and the park that bears the same name in Linn County may soon get a new, less offensive name in honor of a Meskawki women’s rights advocate.

The Gazette first reported that the Linn County Conservation Board has been reviewing the process to change the name of Squaw Creek Park for months that has now expanded to include renaming the park. It’s a process Linn County Conservation Executive Director Dennis Goemaat is learning on the fly but he’s hopeful it could happen as early as December.

Goemaat says it started after seeing the “squaw” name dropped from parks and other sites nationwide as it is deemed a derogatory and sexual slur towards Native American women. It also follows national reviews of Native American names and imagery after the NFL team in Washington, D.C. dropped its Redskins moniker.

In the process of discussing changing the name, the county connected with the Meskwaki Nation in Tama County on possible alternative names. They suggested Wanatee Creek and Park after Jean Adeline Morgan Wanatee. She was born on the Meskwaki settlement in 1910 and inducted into the Iowa Women Hall of Fame in 1993 for her work advocating for women’s rights.

Goemaat says the conservation board should ultimately have the power to change the name of the 988-acre Squaw Creek Park, which is home to trails, a campground, dog park and the City of Cedar Rapids Gardner Golf Course. He says it appears as simple as registering the name change with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Renaming the creek is a bit more complex. Goemaat says it requires an application with the USGS, which triggers a review process. As part of that process, the USGS would consult with other entities with a stake in the name. That’s why Goemaat is working now to talk with leaders in Marion and Cedar Rapids, where Squaw Creek runs.

Goemaat brought up the issue at this week’s Marion City Council meeting where he said the feedback was positive in favor of the name change.

Goemaat says the only costs with a name change would be signage at the park. He says the timing on that is perfect as the county was already discussing the need for a new entry sign for the park.

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