Officials rename 28 places in Wisconsin that had names derogatory to Indigenous women. Here's where they are.

Frank Vaisvilas
Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY - Federal officials on Thursday voted on the final names for more than two dozen places in Wisconsin where previous names for them were considered derogatory to Indigenous people.

The places had used the term “sq--w,” which has been historically used as an offensive, ethnic, racial and sexist slur for Indigenous women.

The effort to change the names across the country was led by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous woman to hold the position.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming," Haaland said in a statement. "That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.”

FILE - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speaks after signing the agreement for the Navajo federal reserved water rights settlement at Monument Valley, Utah on Friday, May 27. Haaland has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 and has mild symptoms.

Nearly 650 names are being changed nationwide.

The DOI worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in identifying the places and collecting replacement name suggestions from the public and tribal nations.

Tribal leaders in Wisconsin had applauded the efforts.

“It’s been long overdue,” said Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, vice chairman of the Oneida Nation, about the name changes. “It took the first Native American woman as secretary of the Interior for this to happen. It’s mind-blowing. … The secretary of the Interior shouldn’t have to waste her time changing derogatory terms.”

One of the name changes occurred on the Menominee Reservation, where there was a stream named Sq--w Creek, which has now been renamed to Neopit Creek.

“I never even realized those names existed on our reservation,” said Menominee Nation Chairman Ron Corn Sr. “Had we known, we might’ve done something prior to this. … It’s kind of like the (Indigenous-based) school mascots. They’re designed to make Natives feel ‘less than’ and the dominant society superior.”

The new names are effective immediately for federal use, but the public may continue to propose name changes for any feature through the regular Board on Geographic Names process.

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The renaming effort involved officials considering multiple name suggestions for the same feature, inconsistent spelling of certain Indigenous language names and features that cross tribal, federal and state jurisdictions.

The renaming effort is not stopping with “sq--w.”

“The DNR is preparing for the second round of the federal process and gathering other geographic names in the state that are derogatory,” said Kris Goodwill, tribal liaison for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Goodwill cited one example of a different offensive name that she finds appalling and that officials will be working to change: Halfbreed Rapids, a river in Oneida County.

Here is a list of the new names:

1. Little Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Oconto County, between Suring and Coleman
  • New name: Marl Lake

2. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Outagamie County, between Appleton and Fremont
  • New name: Lake Jerome

3. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Menominee County, just north of Neopit
  • New name: Neopit Creek

4. Sq--w Island

  • Location: Door County, near Little Sturgeon, west of Sturgeon Bay
  • New name: Keyes Island

5. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Ashland County
  • New name: Wazhashki-ziibiins

6. Sq--w Point

  • Location: Bayfield County
  • New name: Siskiwit Point

7. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Bayfield County
  • New name: Mawikwe Creek

8. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Forest County
  • New name: Nigig Ziibins

9. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Jackson County
  • New name: Hawk Creek

10. Sq--w Mound

  • Location: Jackson County
  • New name: Levis Mound

11. Sq--w Mound Flowage

  • Location: Jackson County
  • New name: Levis Mound Flowage

12. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Langlade County
  • New name: Augustyn Creek

13. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Langlade County
  • New name: East Lake

14. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Lincoln County
  • New name: Hilts Creek

15. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Lincoln County
  • New name: Wisconsin Lake

16. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Lincoln and Price counties
  • New name: Spirit Creek

17. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Marathon and Wood counties
  • New name: McMillan Creek

18. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Marinette County
  • New name: Ten Creek

19. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Marinette County
  • New name: Makwa Lake

20. Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Price County
  • New name: Aabajijiwani-ziibiinsing

21. Sq--w Creek Flowage 6

  • Location: Price County
  • New name: Aabajijiwang Flowage

22. Sq--w Bay

  • Location: Sawyer County
  • New name: Heron Bay

23. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: St. Croix County
  • New name: Apple Lake

24. White Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Vilas County
  • New name: Siphon Lake

25. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Waushara County
  • New name: Shikaakwa Lake

26. Sq--w Lake

  • Location: Oconto County
  • New name: Messenger Lake

27. South Sq--w Creek

  • Location: Marathon and Wood counties
  • New name: South McMillan Creek

28. Lower Sq--w Creek Flowage

  • Location: Price County
  • New name: Lower Aabajijiwang Flowage

Frank Vaisvilas is a Report For America corps member based at the Green Bay Press-Gazette covering Native American issues in Wisconsin. He can be reached at 815-260-2262 or, or on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank. Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible gift to this reporting effort at