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Linn County Front Page News

Posted on: March 26, 2021

Wanatee Creek Name Change Now Official

Trees along river with Linn County logo

The Linn County Board of Supervisors and the Linn County Conservation Board are pleased to announce the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has approved Linn County’s request to change the name of Squaw Creek in Linn County to Wanatee Creek.

Linn County was notified by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names on March 26, 2021, that this request was approved and the new name has been entered into the Geographic Names Information System, the nation’s official geographic names repository. The repository is available and searchable online at https://usgs.gov/geonames/domestic-names

“This is a great day for Linn County,” said Linn County Board of Supervisors Chair Stacey Walker. “We’re honored to have played a small role in the process to discontinue use of a derogatory term, replacing it with a name that pays tribute to an icon and honors the rich heritage of the native peoples of America.” 

Background Information on Name Change 

In September 2020, the Linn County Conservation Board changed the name Squaw Creek Park to Wanatee Park after a thorough review of the name and reference of “squaw” found the name is considered offensive and disparaging toward a culture. The Linn County Board of Supervisors requested the creek name change in support of, and in coordination with, the park name change.

The Linn County Conservation Board held discussions and consultations with several groups and organizations regarding a name change. These included the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi of Iowa (Meskwaki Nation), State Archeologist, Iowa State Historical Society, Tallgrass Archeology, and local governments including the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Letters of support by many of these groups included a name change suggestion Wanatee Park, to provide the opportunity to commemorate Native American contributions within Iowa and the nation, rather than use a term that is no longer acceptable in this modern area. The cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion also passed resolutions of support through their city councils at the request of Linn County Conservation.

Jean Adeline Morgan Wanatee

Adeline Wanatee (1910-1996) was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 for her significant work in the Meskwaki Nation and in support of women’s rights across the United States. As referenced by the State Historical Society of Iowa:

Born on the Meskwaki Indian Settlement in Tama, she attended the Sac and Fox Day School in Tama, the Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota, and then returned to Tama to attend 8th grade at Tama Public Schools. She and her husband raised seven children on the Settlement.  

Over the years, she became a role model and advocate on the state and national level for the rights of women. She is a Meskwaki language specialist and resource for the Smithsonian Institute. Wanatee has served on the Governor's Advisory Committee and was a member of the Iowa Arts Council's "artist-in-the-schools" program. She also chaired the local Meskwaki School Board and was the first woman representative on the local pow-wow association. Nationally, Wanatee was the first woman elected to the Meskwaki Tribal Council, serving two four-year terms. When asked what she would like people to know about her, Wanatee replied, "Where I came from, I am proud that my people never left Iowa, never became prisoners. They are the reason I want to help."

In a letter referencing changing the park name, Judith Bender, Chair of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, wrote: 

“…The Meskwaki Nation applauds your willingness to make changes that honor people through the use of their name, and not diminish them as human beings through the use of derogatory terms. Especially, we thank all who have championed this name change to honor one of our own…”

Learn more about Wanatee Park.

 

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