Seven communities across the United States, including one here in North Dakota, may soon be renamed as part of a government program that will rename federal areas in order to erase derogatory and racial terms from government land.

On Friday, July 22, the Department of the Interior states that its Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force has finished its review of over 600 geographic features across the United States, including mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, and communities. During their first public comment request, the DoI received 6,600 comments from the public regarding names to be changed across the US. One area in North Dakota, in particular, has been singled out as needing further review by the department.

The area in question is Squaw Gap — located near the Montana border, in western McKenzie Count, and is being highlighted due to its use of the word ‘squaw’, which is regarded as a term historically used as a slur against indigenous women in particular.

While the DoI’s commands only affect land that is federally-owned, multiple states and areas have willingly changed their names and removed the slur. In addition to the location in North Dakota, two communities in California and one each in Tennessee, Wyoming, Texas, and Alaska have been identified as part of the review and will soon be renamed.

Although renaming the areas is a difficult program, the DoI has partnered with the US Board on Geographic Names and will work with local communities and stakeholders before making any changes. Last week, the DoI task force provided replacement name recommendations to the BGN. The group is expected to vote on these in September before releasing a final list.

Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a member of the Pueblo Tribe of New Mexico and the first Native American to serve in her position, hopes that this renaming project will serve as both a way to erase hurtful terms and keep federal lands free from any biased or prejudiced implications.

“I am grateful to the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force for their work to ensure that racist names like s***w no longer have a place on our federal lands,” said Haaland in a press statement. “I look forward to the results of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names Vote and to implement the changes as soon as is reasonable.”

A Federal Advisory Committee has also been created to accept advice and suggestions on future derogatory terms and name reconciliation. The status and progress of this committee will be announced over the next weeks.