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Washington's Map Is Going to Be "Less Racist" Soon
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Washington's Map Is Going to Be "Less Racist" Soon

Source: thestranger.com

Back in November, State Senator Pramila Jayapal wrote eloquently about the need to change the racist geographical names across Washington.


She successfully battled the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names to rename Coon Lake and Coon Creek, "a pair of natural wonders with deeply racist names designed as a slur to the African-American miner who had mining claims at the lake" in North Cascades National Park. The two places are now named Howard Lake and Howard Creek in honor of the miner.

But the senator didn't stop there.

Jayapal is leading a larger effort to completely remove racial slurs from 36 geographic places across the state, Crosscut reports.


These names include Jim Crow Creek in Wahkiakum County, Negro Spring in Douglas County, Redman Slough in Grays Harbor County, Chinamans Hat in Kittitas County, and nearly a score of Squaw creeks, lakes, peaks and other features. There are half a dozen other Coon features, although some might be named after raccoons. Find a full list here.

“It is pretty incredible that in 2016 we still have dozens of racist and offensive place names on record in our state,” Jayapal says in a press release. … “[W]hile some of these creeks or lakes may be in remote places, they stand as a constant reminder of times when women, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and others were thought of and treated as less than a whole and autonomous person.”

The first name Jayapal will focus on is Coon Creek in King County. The next priority will be a cluster of three Jim Crow features in Wahkiakum County. The term “Jim Crow” originally named an 1830s minstrel character that lent its name to a racially charged stereotype of black men, evolved into an epithet, and then became attached to post-Civil War segregation laws. The Wahkiakum Jim Crow place names are thought to refer to a black sailor, James D. Saules, who served on the Wilkes Expedition. He reportedly jumped ship and became a Columbia River pilot. His presence in the region is also thought to have helped prompt Oregon’s infamous 1844 black exclusion law, which adds more resonance to the subsequent Jim Crow reference. (You can read more about that here.) Jayapal hopes to get those names changed this year.


As Crosscut notes, a request has already been submitted to rename Squaw Bay in the San Juan Islands to Sq-emenen Bay, the Lummi nation's original name for Shaw Island.

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