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Wanatee Park is officially the new name for Squaw Creek. Roads will be renamed, too

Supervisors will request Squaw Creek name change from federal naming board

Prairie flowers are seen with Squaw Creek in the background from a parking area at Squaw Creek Park in Marion on Wednesd
Prairie flowers are seen with Squaw Creek in the background from a parking area at Squaw Creek Park in Marion on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Squaw Creek Park now is officially Wanatee Park.

The Linn County Conservation Board on Monday retired the now-former name for the 998-acre park, located off Highways 100 and 13.

The park’s new name takes effect immediately, according to a news release.

Jean Adeline Morgan Wanatee, for whom the park is now named, was a women’s rights advocate who was inducted into Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. Wanatee was born in the Meskwaki settlement near Tama in 1910 and was a Meskwaki language specialist for the Smithsonian Institution, served on the Governor’s Advisory Committee and worked at the Toledo Sanatorium and Sac and Fox Day School.

Nationally, Wanatee was the first woman elected to the Meskwaki Tribal Council, serving for two four-year terms.

“The conservation board supports a spirit of inclusion for everyone, and a name that is derogatory and widely accepted as a slur should no longer be validated,” Dennis Goemaat, executive director of Linn County Conservation, said in the release.

As for Squaw Creek, the Linn County Board of Supervisors will request the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Board of Geographic Names to rename the creek Wanatee Creek, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson said. A decision on the request is expected to take several months to a year, according to the release.

The process of changing the name of a river or stream involves federal, state and local jurisdictions, the release said. The name change has the support of the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion and Linn County Board of Supervisors.

Many groups were involved in discussions about a name change for the park and creek, including the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi of Iowa (Meskwaki Nation), the state archaeologist, Iowa State Historical Society, Tallgrass Archaeology and local governments in Linn County.

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Oleson said roads in the county containing the name “squaw” will be changed in the future, and that process has begun.

During last week’s formal session, Oleson added the issue with the road names to the agenda. County Engineer Brad Ketels said changing a road name requires letters to adjacent property owners and a public hearing.

“One of the ideas will be changing them all to Wanatee,” Oleson told The Gazette. “It’s about being respectful and mindful of this issue, and after a lot of deliberation and listening and talking with Meskwaki Nation. It’s the right thing to do.”

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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