Dennis Cassinelli: Political correctness attacks historic place names
Political correctness really chaps the backside of my wrinkled old hide. I’m going to cite just one example of how far bureaucrats will go to shove their interpretation of what they believe to be politically correct down our throats.
I have often used U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps published by the U.S. government during my travels throughout the American West. The desert country of the Great Basin has often been referred to as the Great American Desert. This is largely a desolate land with few paved roads and even fewer places with human habitation. Before widespread use of Global Positioning System (GPS) for determining where you were, desert travelers commonly referred to USGS maps to keep them from getting lost.
I bought my first book of USGS maps in the 1960s when I was traveling extensively through the mountain and desert country of Nevada. In my younger years, I worked as a construction surveyor and inspector. I have hunted and fished in nearly every county in the state. The early USGS maps showed the names of every mountain, creek, cow camp and glory hole in the region. The colorful names of the places shown on the maps were given by the early hunters, trappers, miners, cowboys, Indians and pioneers who first settled the West.
No matter where you were, you could know the name of the canyon, stream, or mountain range where you pitched your tent, shot your deer or caught your fish. The early map makers made no effort to edit or change the names originally given to these places. You could tell a fellow hunter you had jumped a big bunch of sage hen just north of Chicken Shit Springs and he would know exactly where you were talking about. You could tell another group of hunters to meet you at Squaw Tit Butte and be certain they would be there at the agreed upon time. (These are actual examples from an old USGS map of Humboldt County).
The early USGS maps showed many of the ruins of historic places such as ghost towns and archaeological sites. These references have been removed from the more recent editions of the maps, presumably to protect them from vandalism.
I used my book of USGS maps so much over the years, it became dog-eared and worn. I had torn out several pages to loan to other travelers or hunters at different times and finally decided to buy a new book of the maps. To my great disappointment, I found the newer editions had been heavily edited for political correctness. By that I mean many of the colorful old place names have either been changed or eliminated.
Some U.S. government pencil pusher, who probably never spent an evening under the stars listening to the coyotes howl, removed all the old descriptive names from the maps. No longer can any names referring to Indians be found. No petroglyph or archaeological sites are shown. No place names with even a hint of profanity can be found on the revised editions. Names of places used by hunters, ranchers and miners for more than 100 years were removed to keep from offending one group or another of people who likely have no business out in the back country anyway.
In my opinion, the entire effort failed miserably. I, for one, am highly offended some government employees can take it upon themselves to change the colorful history of a region by editing out the names people have assigned to places for decades. This is similar to the protestors and politicians who are destroying symbols of our cultural heritage. The new USGS maps are readily available. It may take some searching to locate one of the older sets that still have the wonderful historic names given to these places. This article was taken from my book, “Uncovering Archaeology.” Since I wrote this book in 2009, there have been some efforts by the USGS to scan and sell thousands of pages of the older USGS maps, including those described by me in this article. Apparently, other interested persons have also pressured USGS to make copies of these historic old maps available. If you’re interested in obtaining some of these copies, check out the USGS website.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Dennis’ books sold through this publication will be at a 50 percent discount to reduce inventory and Dennis will pay the postage. These are no longer available from Amazon.