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Matthew Hedger
07/03/2014 6:47 AM

A recently-appointed U.S. Forest Supervisor is proceeding with plans to rename a landmark in the El Dorado National Forest after he decided its name — which has been on the map since the mid-1800s — was offensive to Native American people.

During the public comment period of the June 24 Amador County Board of Supervisors meeting, Amador District Ranger Rick Hopson informed the board that his boss, Laurence Crabtree, was making the “administrative decision” after conferring with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

The announcement was met with no small amount of sarcasm and consternation by a board already reeling from the perception that decisions affecting their elected area of influence are being made by outside entities.

“It’s probably not common knowledge to everybody, but to some, they’re very aware that there’s a place name in the Amador Ranger District, in Amador County, that is very derogatory to our Native American community,” began Hopson. “The term is squaw, Squaw Ridge,” he said.

Hopson said Crabtree had met with members of the Washoe Tribe, who suggested renaming the ridge, “Hungalelti,” pronounced “hung ga welty,” a name which translates to “Southern Washoe.”

Hopson said Crabtree has also started a required name change process through the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a federal body within the Department of the Interior, and was scheduled to make a similar announcement to Alpine County supervisors, one member of which, he said, is Hungalelti.

As Hopson invited members of the public with questions to contact him directly, and as he explained his willingness to work with the board if they had questions about the process, his remarks prompted a reply from Supervisor Richard Forster.

“Sounds Rick, like the decision is made though, so the time for input has passed since you’ve already met and conferred with the tribe,” he said. “They appear to be the ones with the input.”

“Correct, correct,” said Hopson, explaining that there “were a few different ways” the process could have been initiated.

“The forest supervisor chose to work directly with the tribal members of the Washoe Tribe for the name change,” he explained.

“And not with local government,” quipped Supervisor John Plasse.

“Correct,” replied Hopson, who said he had previously notified the board that the name change was going to be taking place.

“You had discussed with us before that an internal policy had been devised to address these offensive names, but we were not consulted regarding a proposed name change,” said Plasse.

That’s correct,” said Hopson.

“Does the Forest Service own Squaw Valley,” asked Plasse.

“Not that I’m aware of,” replied Hopson, “I’m not a hundred percent sure on that. That’s on the Tahoe National Forest. You might be aware there was a proposed name change of the ski area as well, and the name was not changed. And a lot of people are aware that there is a current controversy or discussion around a name change for the Washington Redskins football team,” he added.

Forster asked Hopson to “pass a message along” that consulting with local government “serves a better purpose.

“Consultation doesn’t mean the county would oppose that either,” he said.

Hopson acknowledged that a change in leadership at the USFS caused the effort to proceed “along a little different route.”

Supervisor Brian Oneto asked Hopson how many “Indian tribes” had complained about the name, inadvertently using another term widely seen as derogatory by the Native American community.

“I’m not aware of any,’ said Hopson. “I’ve not received any complaints directly to me on the name, locally,” he added.

Hopson said he was unsure what the ultimate cost to make the name change revisions, reprint the pertinent maps and replace roadway signs would be, but estimated road sign costs would be approximately $200 each.

“Are we gonna get one of those signs coming down to put in the Amador County museum,” asked Forster? “ It’d be a historical piece.”

“I don’t see why not,” replied Hopson.

Supervisor Ted Novelli asked whether or not the name change would apply to all areas of the ridge, which runs between Amador and Alpine counties.

“Yes,” said Hopson, “the ridge is along what is called the Carson/Emmigrant trail, which as we know locally, was the highest used trail during the Gold Rush period as far as over the passes. So that Carson/Emmigrant trail is now on what we’re calling Hungalelti Ridge, so its one in the same place.

Hobson explained that the majority of the ridge is in Amador County, with about a quarter of it in Alpine.

‘You know, I’d wonder maybe if the Carson/Emmigrant trail, if that may not be derogatory to immigrants,” quipped Oneto. “Maybe it should be called the New Citizen Trail.”

The remark went right over Hopson’s head.

“I’m not aware of that and we don’t have any Forest Service policy to change that,” said Hobson, who offered to share the official policy letter with the board if they liked.

Hopson is headquartered at 26820 Silver Drive in Pioneer, and can be reached at 295-4251.

Crabtree was selected to be the Forest Supervisor of the Eldorado National Forest following the retirement of Kathy Hardy on June 14, 2013. His office is at 100 Forni Road, in Placerville, and he can be reached at 530-622-5061.

The Amador County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet again July 15.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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