McKenzie County residents are lukewarm on federal efforts to rename a hamlet on the Montana border.

A federal task force is working to replace names of more than 660 geographic features that American Indians find derogatory. One of those features is Squaw Gap in McKenzie County. The location is little more than a community hall and an old schoolhouse. The name refers to a local rock formation.

In November 2021, the Secretary of the Interior ordered the renaming of over 660 geological features in the U.S. that use the term, “squaw.”

According to a statement by the Department of the Interior, “squaw” has historically been used as a racist and sexist slur referring particularly to Indigenous women.

Of the more than 660 features identified, six are in North Dakota, according to the US Geological Survey Geographic Name Information System:

  • Squaw Creek in Hettinger County
  • Squaw Creek Dunn County
  • Squaw Creek in McKenzie County
  • Squaw Creek Bay in Dunn County
  • Squaw Point in Bottineau County
  • Squaw Gap in McKenzie County

Kathy Skarda, a farmer and rancher who grew up in the Squaw Gap area, says her friends and family thought the renaming effort was a joke. She says she doesn’t think the name was meant to be derogatory to anybody or any ethnicity. She says it will always be Squaw Gap to the people who live there.