ALPENA — An Alpena place name contains a word that many consider derogatory and needs to be changed, according to the federal government.
Residents can have their say on the new name for the bay south of Partridge Point, currently titled with a word that many consider an ethnic, racial and gender slur, especially towards Native American women.
Residents have mixed feelings about the impending change, weighing the long history of the bay’s name against the potential for offense.
For Native Americans, the change will right a wrong, said Gwen Savard-Porritt, an Atlanta resident and member of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
The word hurts people, Savard-Porritt said, and “it needs to be taken down.”
With the authority granted in federal laws, US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland – a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and the first Native American cabinet secretary – officially declared the word a derogatory term in November and ordered the US Board on Geographic Names to replace it. in all geographical references.
In the coming months, the council will rename more than 660 locations whose names contain the word – including the bay south of Alpena and 22 other locations in Michigan.
The council will rely on suggestions from residents or nearby geographic features to create the new names.
The new name for Alpena Bay could include a derivative of Lake Huron, Partridge Point, Devil’s Lake or Bare Point, based on a list of suggestions provided to the council by the US Geological Survey.
Residents with ideas they like best can share them with the council by visiting the Regulations.gov website.
The change follows other comprehensive name changes, including in the 1960s and 1970s, when the council identified and replaced derogatory terms for black or Japanese people, according to the Home Office.
Some states, including Montana, Oregon, Maine and Minnesota, have passed legislation prohibiting the use of the word the Federal Council now refers to as “sq___” in all official communications.
Some sources attribute the current name of Alpena Bay to a Native American woman who died near the bay while mourning a man she loved, or to a story of a man scaring a Native American woman while fishing in the bay.
The Michigan Department of Transportation does not include the current name of the bay on its maps, according to an MDOT spokesperson. The name appears on Google Maps.
Denise Russell, like some of her South Partridge Point Road neighbors, thinks the government should leave the name alone.
The bay has had its current name for as long as local residents can remember it, she said, and no one intends to offend her.
The word was once an honorable word, not a derogatory word, Russell said.
“Now it’s considered that because people decided it was,” she said. “People are misinterpreting all of this.”
A few houses further, David Pelleran was surprised to learn that some Native Americans find the word degrading.
“I’ve seen it in history books, haven’t I?” Pelleran said. “I just thought it meant woman.”
People who use the berry’s name don’t consider it words that would offend anyone, he said.
“You don’t even think about the name,” Pelleran said. “It’s like Long Lake. It’s just the name.
If anyone was hurt by the name, however, it should be changed, said his wife, Lori Pelleran.
“If it was called ‘White Girl Lake’ or something like that, I wouldn’t be offended,” she said. “But, if it’s offensive, I certainly wouldn’t want to be offensive to anyone. If they change it, so be it.
Savard-Porritt said his mother taught him not to say “the s-word”.
Raised in St. Ignatius, Porritt didn’t know about her heritage until she was a teenager, her parents hiding it from her because to be Native American was to be abused and looked down upon, she said.
Sounding like words you might find in raw locker room talk, the word to be deleted has no place in polite society, she said, comparing it to the “n-word”, recognized by many as unacceptably hurtful.
“It’s right there with it,” Savard-Porritt said. “Tied.”
Not all words associated with a culture, even negatively, should be banned, she said.
Her maiden name, Savard, translates in French to “savage”, a word she felt uneasy about when she was younger but which she has now adopted and finds “pretty cool”.
Some don’t like the term “American Indian”, but, although she prefers Native Americans as more accurate, she thinks fighting the alternate title isn’t worth the battle.
If people learn that their words hurt people and choose to use them anyway, they should be ashamed of using those words, Savard-Porritt said.
“But if you gain more knowledge and then change, you should be proud,” she said. “Because change is difficult.”
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.
To suggest a name
Residents can suggest new names for the bay south of Partridge Point in Alpena to the Derogatory Geographic Names Working Group until April 25.
∫ Go to regulation.gov. Enter DOI-2022-0001 in the search bar and click “Search”.
∫ Click on “Comment” under Reconciliation of derogatory geographical names.
∫ Share the suggested names in the Comment box. Also include the following:
“Name of agency: Geological Service; Function ID: 638662; File number: GX22EF00COM000. »
∫ Commentators can include explanations of their suggested names and can attach photos or documents if desired.