PLACERVILLE, Calif. September 17, 2018 – Earlier this year, by approval of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, Squaw Ridge in Amador and Alpine Counties was formally renamed Hungalelti Ridge (pronounced Hunga-Lel-Ti). The new name was proposed by the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California whose headquarters is in Gardnerville, Nevada. Hungalelti Ridge is located south of Highway 88, extending for about 6.5 miles along part of the northern border of the Mokelumne Wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest.
Many places with names which included the word “Squaw” have been changed throughout the United States in response to concerns raised by Native Americans and others. The name change process in the Eldorado National Forest began in 2012 when U.S. Forest Service policy on geographic names provided direction that the word “squaw” was derogatory and should be removed from all markers, signs, and maps and should no longer be used administratively. The Eldorado National Forest removed the name from use in the forest and began consulting with tribal and local governments to identify a replacement name.
The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California requested that the name of the ridge be changed to “Hungalelti” which means “up there” and can also signify “Southern Washoe”. “We say “Hungalelti” when we are talking about people from “up there” meaning part of our traditional territory,” said Washoe Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Darrel Cruz. “The land and the people are very closely connected.”
The forest and the regional office supported this proposed name change. “The Washoe tribal members endured many decades of hearing this disrespectful term,” said Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree. “We fully support their choice of an alternative name and believe this change was the right thing to do.”
The Amador and Alpine County Board of Supervisors as well the Jackson Rancheria also supported this name change.
The Washoe Tribe submitted the proposed the name change to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) which has purview over place names and geographic features across the country. BGN accepted this proposal for its review and approval process which included consulting with the Forest Service and local governments. This collaborative effort between the federal and local governments and the Washoe Tribe demonstrates how working together for a common cause reinforces working relationships.
On April 12, 2018, the name Hungalelti Ridge was approved by BGN and was recorded in the Geographic Names Information System, the nation’s official geographic names repository, which is available and searchable online at https://geonames.usgs.gov.