Reconciliation in Place Names Act
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BEFORE THE NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
H.R. 4454, THE RECONCILIATION IN PLACE NAMES ACT
OCTOBER 14, 2021
Thank you for the opportunity to provide the Department of the Interior’s views on H.R. 4454, the Reconciliation in Place Names Act. H.R. 4454 directs the Department of the Interior (Department) to establish an Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names to advise the Board on Geographic Names on renaming geographic features that currently bear place names that are considered offensive or derogatory.
The Board on Geographic Names (the Board) is the interagency organization of the U.S. Government established to maintain uniform geographic name usage in Federal documents and maps and performs this duty conjointly with the Secretary of the Interior. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides the Executive Secretariat services and support staff to the Board and maintains the authoritative Federal database of geographic names. Since its establishment by Executive Order in 1890 and its re-establishment by Public Law 80-242 in 1947, the Board has developed principles, policies, and procedures whereby it considers proposals submitted by any interested party to the Board to name or rename any natural domestic geographic feature. The Board encourages any individual, organization, Federal agency, or local, State, or Tribal government to initiate a proposal to change any place name that may be considered offensive or derogatory to a particular racial or ethnic group, gender, or religious group. The Board considers input from local, State, and Tribal governments and Federal land-management agencies before rendering its decisions.
The Department and the Biden-Harris Administration support H.R. 4454 and welcome the establishment of place names that are equitable and just, honor the cultural diversity of the United States, and advance dignity for all people in the United States. The Department and the USGS recognize the existence of many offensive place names on the landscape and their effect on many Americans. The Department and the USGS are reviewing the options available for renaming geographic places, including actions the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to take, to address geographic names that do not reflect our national values. The Board and its Executive Secretariat stand ready to work with the Advisory Committee in achieving its mission to rename offensive geographic features.
The Department, the USGS, and the Board support this legislation as part of the Administration’s goal that all Americans feel included and respected through the appropriate use of place-based names. If the Committee decides to move forward on this bill, the Department would like to work with you to provide technical amendments to H.R. 4454.