Washington State Senator Pramila Jayapal has initiated a review of ethnically and racially offensive geographic names in Washington state. Jayapal’s next step is to file paperwork with the Washington state Committee on Geographic Names.
She hopes the first group of names will be changed this year.
Jayapal and the Department of Natural Resources have identified 48 places in Washington with offensive names, that include such words as “coon,” “squaw” and “Jim Crow.”
Last year Jayapal helped persuade the government the change the name of Coon Lake in Chelan County to Howard Lake in honor of an African-American prospector, she became curious about how many other offensive geographical names existed within her state, according to the Seattle Times.
“As I was going through that, I was like wow, this is crazy,” Jayapal told the Seattle Times. “I wonder how many other names there are.”
“We’ve never done anything like [this] before, so I have no idea how this is going to go,” Department of Natural Resources Deputy Supervisor Kyle Blum told the Times.
Jayapal is an an Indian-American Democrat. She has represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate since January 12, 2015. Before her election in 2014, she was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the founder and executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigration advocacy group.