Hurtful name officially gone for what Lake County now calls Manitou Creek
The name of a 15-mile creek in Lake County considered hurtful to Native Americans is officially off the books.
It will be a while before the signs and official designations are replaced, but Squaw Creek, which runs from Hawthorn Woods through Fremont, Avon and Grant townships on its way to Long Lake, is now officially Manitou Creek.
Manitou refers to the spirit of the stream and the lifeblood of the region's Indigenous people, according to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which approved the change at its December meeting.
The action was a welcome conclusion for the three members of the Manitou Creek Drainage District, whose name was changed, too. The board solicited support and navigated the federal bureaucracy to have what is considered a derogatory term to most Native American tribes replaced.
The old name is used in records dating to 1840, and the water body likely was never called anything else. The name change generated strong support, said Patrick Duby, drainage board president.
"More local residents have come to understand that the word 'squaw' is an ethnic and sexual slur against Native American women," Duby said.
"For this reason, many Lake County residents, organizations, historians and public officials stepped forward to support the renaming of the local creek," he said.
The change will be made in the federal Geographic Names Information System, the nation's official geographic names repository. County officials also will be asked to formally change the name where it is referenced.
Drainage district board member Jim Denomie was instrumental in educating the board and the community about the significance of the change, according to Duby.
Denomie is a citizen of the Bad River Band Chippewa Tribe and has hosted and produced a syndicated Native American Radio program on National Public Radio. His wife, Barb, is from the sovereign nation of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin.
The district also has made substantial progress in its main duty of keeping the waterway flowing by adopting a no-kill policy regarding beavers, whose dams can cause flooding.
Removing the dams led to expensive ongoing costs without providing a long-term solution to the flooding issues they caused, Duby said.
Working with the Squaw Creek Clean Water Alliance, whose name also is to be changed soon, a contractor/consultant was hired and more humane ways to bypass dams and mitigate flooding of homes, businesses and agricultural areas has been implemented, he said.
An $8,850 grant from the Lake County Stormwater Management Agency nearly doubled the district's annual budget and allowed the work to proceed at no taxpayer expense, Duby said.