The Bureau of Geographic Names has a multi-year plan to rid the US of racist place names:
Usually, the public eye is far from the BGN, a member of the class of government bodies whose work you could go a lifetime without thinking about, even though it’s all around you. But the board now finds itself in the middle of the fiery national debate over racism and language. In recent years, the BGN has spent more of its time reconsidering offensive names than doing anything else, but the process typically takes months and is reactive by design, with names considered case by case upon request.
A different, faster process is possible. In November, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold that post, issued an order designed to wipe any mentions of “Squaw,” probably the most frequently used slur in place names, off the map. She issued a second order that will establish an advisory committee to identify other offensive names that might be proactively changed under a similar mechanism. In 2020, when Haaland was a member of Congress, she introduced a bill that would also create such a committee, and although Green and Senator Elizabeth Warren reintroduced it this year, the bill is stuck in limbo.
But even the expedited process will take time. Removing all uses of “Squaw” is expected to take about a year, and that’s the simpler of the two orders. One challenge is that determining what’s offensive isn’t always straightforward. Names including a slur are easy, but others—such as Jew Valley, Oregon, named after a group of Jewish homesteaders—are less clear-cut. Another is that any feature whose name is removed needs a new one, ideally one that is locally meaningful and that will age better than whatever it’s replacing. The BGN is designed with process in mind, not justice or equity.
Weather Now, my demo application, makes heavy use of BGN data. Most of the US places in its gazetteer have BGN identifiers so I can update them automatically.