Ashland couple rename Squaw Peak

A small peak north of Ashland commonly referred to as Squaw Peak has become the latest site in Oregon to drop a name considered derogatory to American Indians.

The United States Board on Geographic Names approved the naming of Taowhywee (Morningstar) Point earlier this month for the 3,727-foot peak located just outside of Ashland. The mountain is on the 1,800-acre Circle of Teran Ranch, owned by Scott Young and Sulara James.

The couple applied for an official name in March 2007 after an American Indian friend, Robert Greygrass, told them that many Native Americans consider the term "squaw" derogatory toward women.

"When he told us that, we said, 'Would you help us rename it then?' " James said.

Greygrass consulted with local American Indians and they decided to name the peak after Margaret Harner, a well-known medicine woman in the area during the 19th century. Harner's American Indian name was Taowhywee, a name she shares with her great-granddaughter, Agnes Baker Pilgrim.

"I feel very honored to get another derogatory name off of the map," Pilgrim said. "I'm very happy that we got that done."

Although the name Squaw Peak was never officially recognized, at one point there were 172 Oregon landmarks that did officially use the term "squaw," according to Champ Vaughan, the Oregon Geographic Names Board president.

Since 1998, the board has slowly whittled down that list to about 120, Vaughn said, but the board is limited by the requirement that all name change requests must come from the public.

The board receives about 20 requests per year, half of which are to eliminate a name using the word "squaw," Vaughn said.

"People ask us, 'Why don't you just take the names off the map?'" he said. "We can't erase names on maps. It has to stay there until we have a replacement name."

When considering the naming of Taowhywee Point, the board checked with local tribes and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners before making a recommendation to the national board.

"We don't want to do anything that's going to bring offense, especially a term that may have racial connotations," said Commissioner Dave Gilmour.

Gilmour said he would support renaming every geographic feature with the word "squaw" in the name. There are two small lakes near Applegate Lake with the term in their name that Gilmour would also like to see changed, he said.

Julie French is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 482-3456, ext. 227, or

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