South Dakota Changing Place Names After Native Americans, African-Americans Complain

South Dakota is trying to change some of the names given to natural landmarks due to a growing list of complaints that the names are offensive.

Blacks and Native Americans are two of the groups supporting measures to change names, such as "Negro" and "squaw" that were assigned to all manner of natural landmarks in the state such as rivers and mountain ridges.

The state issued a plea this month for public assistance in renaming five of the 18 sites in question, but is finding it difficult to get federal approval for the names due to strict guidelines.

"It is hard for us to come up with a good name," said June Hansen, a member of the South Dakota Board of Geographic Names, told Reuters. "There is some pretty strict criteria for what the name has to be."

Many of the proposed name changes that had been proposed by the South Dakota Board of Geographic Names were rejected by U.S. Board on Geographic Names because they did not meet specific criteria.

The board's guidelines state that names should be based on local history, folklore, events or natural aspects of the region. The names also cannot be accepted if they are the same as other names found in nearby states.

According to the Board of Geographic Names, the word "Negro" and "squaw" are not considered to be offensive, Lou Yost, its executive secretary, told Reuters. However, he did reveal that the three-letter derogatory term used to describe Japanese people is.

South Dakota's attempt to change Negro Creek to Medicine Mountain Creek failed to garner approval of the federal body, but Little Squaw Creek has become Badger Clark Creek.

The name changing push in South Dakota began 2001 and the state has already managed to rename 20 sites that were offensive to a portion of the population of Sioux American Indians who reside in South Dakota.