NEW BUFFALO, MICHIGAN—The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, based in Dowagiac, Michigan, is seeking to have a name of a creek changed from Squaw Creek to Nokmes Creek.
The word Nokmes, which means “grandmother,” honors American Indian women, unlike the term “squaw.” Many American Indians consider the term extremely derogatory.
Squaw Creek is a tributary of the Galien River, a thirty mile long river in Berrien County in southwest Michigan. A portion of the creek runs through the Band’s trust land in New Buffalo.
The Pokagon Band applied to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names asking that the Board find the term “squaw” to be derogatory, and that it grant the Band’s request to change the name from Squaw Creek to Nokmes Creek.
Tribal Council sent the application to the New Buffalo Township Board and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners asking for their support.
Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf informed the county commission about the request. The board will consider a resolution in the coming weeks if the Pokagon Band agrees to take care of any of the costs associated with the name change.
A number of states, including Minnesota and Maine have enacted laws prohibiting use of the term “squaw” in naming natural geographic features and roads. In Idaho the U.S. Board on Geographic approved removing the word “squaw” from eight place names in northern Idaho, three on the Coeur D’Alene reservation and five outside it but in the tribe’s ancestral territory.
The Pokagon Band’s flagship casino, Four Winds Casino – New Buffalo, is located in Berrien County’s New Buffalo township.