Senator and DNR teaming up to push for name changes to racially - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Senator and DNR teaming up to push for name changes to racially offensive places in Washington

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Some of the places up for a name change (PHOTO: Some of the places up for a name change (PHOTO:

SEATTLE - A Seattle senator and the Department of Natural Resources are teaming up to begin petitioning for name changes to racially offensive landmarks in Washington State. 

Senator Pramila Jayapal and DNR compiled a list of 48 landmarks they would like to see renamed in Washington. None of them are in Spokane County, but there are some in nearby Lincoln, Whitman, Okanogan, Douglas, Chelan, Pend Oreille and Garfield counties. 

Last year Jayapal helped with an effort to change Coon Lake in Chelan County to Howard Lake, after an African-American prospector. That effort sparked her interest on how many other racially-offensive names are still in the state. 

Jayapal says Coon Creek in King County will be targeted first for a change, with other names around the state containing the word "coon," "squaw," and "Jim Crow" up next. 

How did most of these places get their names?

In 1890, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names was established and topographers traveled the country asking communities (mostly white according to Jayapal and DNR), what they called notable landmarks around their towns. 

In eastern Washington, you'll find names like "Negro Lake," and "Negro Creek" near "Squaw Canyon" and "Squaw Mountain," all of which are up for a name change. 

How to change a name

To change a name, an application must be submitted to the Committee on Geographic Names. Once initially approved, the petitioner can seek public support for a name change. There committee must then vote to recommend the change, which then goes to the Board on Geographic Names for approval. 

Jayapal says while there may be more racially offensive names out there, they have picked the ones that are "truly offensive and have a context and a history." 

Can you think of any name changes you'd like to see in our area or anywhere else that aren't on this map? Let us know on our Facebook page and vote in our poll above.