Sierra ridge renamed to ‘Hungalelti Ridge’ to eliminate derogatory ‘Squaw’ name
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — A ridge that stretches south of Caples Lake in the Mokelumne Wilderness has received a Washoe name, officials announced in late September.
Squaw Ridge in Amador and Alpine counties was formally renamed Hungalelti Ridge (pronounced Hunga-Lel-Ti), a name proposed the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
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 that 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 tribe, headquartered in Gardnerville, 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.
“Washoe 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 the name change.
The tribe submitted the proposed name change to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names which has purview over place names and geographic features across the country. The board accepted this proposal for its review and approval process which included consulting with the Forest Service and local governments.
With the Nevada Indian Commission’s offices located on the Stewart Indian School campus, Stacey Montooth is reminded every day of the culture and lands she is working to preserve and the welfare of her people she is striving to improve.