S. Ore. peak gets new, official name

ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) A Southern Oregon peak that was known commonly, though not officially, as Squaw Peak has a new name that no longer uses the word many American Indians say is derogatory.

The United States Board on Geographic Names has approved the naming of Taowhywee Point for the 3,727-foot peak just outside of Ashland on the 1,800-acre Circle of Teran Ranch, owned by Scott Young and Sulara James.

The couple applied for an official name in March 2007 after an American Indian friend, Robert Greygrass, told them that many consider the term squaw derogatory.

Greygrass said local American Indians proposed naming it for Margaret Harner, a well-known medicine woman in the area during the 19th century. Harner's spirit name is Taowhywee, a name she shares with her great-granddaughter, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, also known as Grandma Aggie.

"I feel very honored to get another derogatory name off of the map," Pilgrim said. "I'm very happy that we got that done."

At one point there were 172 Oregon landmarks that were officially named with the term "squaw," according to Champ Vaughan, the Oregon Geographic Names Board president.

Since 1998, the board has whittled the list to about 120, Vaughn said, but the board is limited by the requirement that all name change requests must come from the public.

The board receives about 20 requests per year, half of which are to eliminate a name using the word "squaw," Vaughn said.

"People ask us, 'Why don't you just take the names off the map?' " he said. "We can't erase names on maps. It has to stay there until we have a replacement name."

The ranch James and her husband own is a spiritual retreat center on land sacred to American Indians, who lived there until about 1900. They follow shamanism, the belief that there is a spirit in every living thing, which has its roots in indigenous religions, James said.


Information from: The Ashland Daily Tidings