AMES — Story County is weighing in on a push to rename a creek that runs through the county.
Jasmine Martin, a doctoral student in Ames, submitted a name-change request to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change Squaw Creek to Story Creek in July.
Martin said ‘squaw’ is a racist and sexist term and is offensive to Native American women.
“That is a fairly well known racial slur,” Martin said.
Martin, who moved from South Dakota to Ames over the summer, said she was shocked to see a creek with that name.
“It really impacts how even someone who is not of native descent sees Ames when they’re researching it,” Martin said.
Martin said while squaw is considered to be offensive in today’s standards, it hasn’t always been that way.
“In some native dialects it really just meant women,” Martin said. “In other dialects, and in particular by some settlers who came after, it was used as a derogatory term toward those women.”
Right now, the Story County Board of Supervisors is weighing in on renaming the creek.
“The name has always been of concern to me,” Lauris Olson, a Story County supervisor, said.
Squaw Creek, which feeds into the Skunk River, weaves through three different counties: Story, Boone and Hamilton.
The federal government has asked those jurisdictions for their opinions on renaming the creek
“We can recommend that a name change occurs, we can recommend that it not occur or we can go ahead and recommend that we have no opinion on it,” Olson said.
The feds have the ultimate decision to change or keep the name. Martin said she thinks Ames will be seen as a much more welcoming community if it’s changed.
“This affected me when I was deciding where I was going to go to school,” Martin said. “I’m sure it catches many other people’s attention. I’m sure that affects how some native students choose where they are going to go to school. I think that it would make a real difference in the way that people see this area.”
The name change for Squaw Creek is scheduled to be discussed at the Story County Board of Supervisor’s meeting Tuesday morning.
Of note, a park, watershed and street also have names that include the word ‘squaw’.
Story county officials said they hadn’t thought of the possibility of name changes until this came up, but said they’d be open to considering renaming some of those locations in the future.
What do you think of changing the creek’s name?
Local 5 has a poll on our Facebook page We Are Iowa Local 5 News.
Story County wants to hear your thoughts too. Have suggestions for what to rename it? Here are the guidelines it must possess, then feel free to contact the Story County Board of Supervisors.