One of the Squaw Creek Drainage District’s main orders of business is dealing with beaver dams along the 17-mile waterway that drains into Long Lake in northwestern Lake County.
But the three-member volunteer board also is working to correct a situation it considers as important as keeping the creek flowing freely.
Percolating for over a year on its to-do list is renaming the creek “Manitou,” for which the district is seeking letters of support to honor the spirit of the waterway.
“The drainage district is working on the creek name change for inclusion and diversity,” Chairman Patrick Duby said.
“Squaw” is a derogatory term to most Native American tribes from the region — an ethnic and racial slur historically used for Indigenous North American women. Contemporary use of the word is “considered offensive, derogatory, misogynist and racist,” Duby said.
“This wasn’t a whim. It wasn’t a rash decision. It was a well-thought-out process,” said Duby, a construction project manager who was appointed to the board about three years ago.
About two years ago, Duby recruited Jim DeNomie to the drainage district board. DeNomie, who had worked on federal clean water issues, is a citizen of the Bad River Band of Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior and has hosted Native American Events at the College of Lake County.
He also produced and hosted a syndicated Native American radio program called “Voices from the Circle,” which has been broadcast on National Public Radio for 23 years.
DeNomie’s insight and involvement has been invaluable, Duby said.
The name Squaw Creek is in records dating to 1840, and there is no indication it ever was called anything else.
“It’s something that should have changed a long time ago or shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Duby said during a presentation at the district’s board meeting Wednesday.
“We’re trying to make a difference,” he said.
Native American tribes that inhabited Lake County before European settlement were consulted. “Manitou” was determined to honor the spirit of the waterway and therefore the lifeblood for Indigenous people of the region, the district determined.
The name change request will be sent to Illinois’ geographic names authority, known as GNIS.
Besides a name being considered derogatory, one of the conditions of approval is that an effort has to be made to solicit opinions from residents, local governments, organizations and tribes. A name change won’t move forward without supportive comments.
“We can make a positive change by replacing a hurtful name, and that is why we request your support,” according to materials presented at the board meeting.
Those who wish to can email Duby at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to support the effort.
This content was originally published here.