Council voted to respond to a federal request to change the name of Squaw Creek


Ames City Council discussed ordinances regarding massage establishments and options to change the name of Squaw Creek at their meeting Nov. 26.

Amber Mohmand

Community members spoke to the Ames City Council, requesting it to take action and change the name of Squaw Creek, Tuesday. 

“The name of this creek, as it currently stands, is demeaning, dehumanizing [and] it perpetuates the subjection that has real material instances beyond the name of a creek,” said Javier Miranda, a community member who spoke at the public forum. “Absolutely this creek should be renamed out respect to native people, out of respect especially to missing or murdered indigenous women.” 

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, who is responsible for standardizing geographic names for use by the federal government as well as accepting and processing proposals to name unnamed geographic features or to change existing, received a letter from an Ames resident requesting it to change the name of Squaw Creek. 

According to the letter, the current name has an offensive connotation and Native Americans have protested the current name since the 1990s. 

“Racism comes after oppression, not before, […] what racism does is it justifies it and makes us blind to it,” said Sid Barfoot, a community member who spoke at the public forum. “The current name for that [creek] is racist, so I am asking the Council to please recommend to the bureau to change the name to any other name.”  

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names requested the opinion of the Council for the name change and whether it wanted to take action or not. 

Tim Gartin, 2nd ward representative, said he agrees with changing the name to “Story Creek,” which was proposed in the letter, for the reason that Story County has the highest population in which the stream flows through. 

At-Large Representative Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen said she wanted to time to consult with the Board of Supervisors to come up with a name that is connected to the culture in a respectful manner. 

“I think asking the Native historians what their opinion [about the name] would be suitable, and that’s where we would be able to get our expertise from,” Beatty-Hansen said. 

The Council voted to respond to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, as the 1st Ward representative Gloria Betcher and Ex-officio Devyn Leeson were absent from the meeting, and requested a deadline be provided for the Council to bring forth alternatives.

In addition to the name change, the Council voted to amend the first passage of an ordinance, a city law, to regulate massage businesses. 

The ordinance was created to preventing human-trafficking by requiring massage businesses to produce information about the establishment and practitioners when demanded by the city.

Massage establishments would be required to have its managers be designated in writing, Iowa residents, compliant and held responsible to provide information when asked.

The practitioners cannot provide massage services between midnight and 5 a.m. and are required to provide photo identification and licenses in plain sight, according to the drafted ordinance.