State renaming board approves Nuchu Creek as new name for Squaw Creek
United States Board of Geographic Names will have final say over new name
The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board has adopted Nuchu Creek as the preferred candidate as the new name for Squaw Creek in Summit County.
The board received 10 public comments regarding the Summit County location, including one on behalf of Summit County government. Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard, who attended the board’s special meeting Sunday, April 10, about renaming locations named “squaw,” said that Nuchu Creek is the most appropriate. The creek, which is northwest of Silverthorne along the Blue River and Highway 9, sits in Eagles Nest Wilderness in White National Forest. The area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
“As we understand it, Nuchu is the self-identifying name from the Ute Tribe, such as the Ute Mountains,” Blanchard said during the meeting. “We felt that that was important, and I will say that (the Summit Board of County Commissioners) in 2019 made a recommendation to rename the Gore Range, and the recommended name was Nuchu Range. So we felt that it was in the spirit of the Ute Tribe to use that recommended name.”
Before Sunday’s meeting, the national task force that has been assigned to rename the creek had five potential options that were recommended as new names: Palmer Knob, Gore Range, Williams Fork Mountains, Target Bluff and Flat Top. Those names come from existing geological places within a 5-mile radius of the creek, but the public could submit their own ideas for the board to consider.
Of Summit County’s public comments, four suggested Nuchu Creek. Other options included Thorn Creek, Summit Creek, Palmer Creek, Medicine Wheel Creek and Blue River Creek.
Blanchard added that if a tribal nation were to choose a different name, Summit County leadership would defer and recommend whatever they had chosen. Karn Stiegelmeier, former county commissioner and chair-elect for the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance, also suggested Nuchu Creek.
She said that the other names that came from the national task force did not really make sense in relation to local history and geography. Stiegelmeier worked with tribes on potentially renaming Gore Range, which stretches from Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area in Routt County to the southwestern corner of Summit County. Gore Range is named for Sir St. George Gore, an Irish aristocrat known for his 1854-57 hunting expedition in the West that killed thousands of animals.
“We met with the tribes a number of times and discussed the spelling (of Nuchu),” Stiegelmeier said. “It was unanimous that they wanted Nuchu, and it turns out there are many, many spellings — at least 10 — and lots of them have many, many u’s and other vowels. Finally, we narrowed it down to use one that’s a little easier to understand and spell. But there are many spellings of Nuchu and the different tribes and their historians will tell us lots of different backgrounds about them.”
The motion to adopt Nuchu Creek as the new name passed unanimously among the board members who attended Sunday’s meeting.
In November, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland issued Secretarial Order 3404, which formally declared that “squaw” was considered derogatory toward Indigenous women. According to reporting from the Native Sun News Today, the history of the word can be drawn from the Algonquian word meaning “woman.” Derivations of the word could can also be traced to other women-centered words in Algonquian dialects — including “Squàsese,” meaning a young girl, and “Saunsquûaog,” meaning queens.
However, when used by white colonists and fur trappers in the 1700s, it was often used in a vulgar way to describe Native American women as uncivilized, according to research funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Across the United States, 660 geographical sites use the word “squaw,” and 28 of those are in Colorado.
The Colorado board will primarily assist and cooperate with the United States Board of Geographic Names, who gives final determinations for standardizing the names of geographic and natural features.
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