Mt Lubra

The US Board on Geographic names has just approved changed to 16 place names in Central Oregon containing ‘squaw’ (Oregon has legislation banning the use of derogatory words in place names).

About 20 years ago there was a push to rename some racially offensive Australian names. It’s been a bit patchy, for example there various “Nigger creeks” have been renamed in some areas of Queensland but not others. There have been some articles on this topic in the newsletter Placenames Australia.

The reason I’m posting on this at all is because of the recent bushfires in the Grampians (in Victoria), specifically around Mt Lubra. Lightning strikes started a fire there last Friday and it’s burnt out a large area of land. Lubra is in origin from one of the Tasmanian languages and means ‘woman’. However, like some other indigenous words for women (I’m thinking, of course, of squaw and bint in particular), it rapidly acquired negative connotations. In the Western Kimberley it is still an extremely offensive word for Aboriginal women. The etymology of lubra is not widely known these days, however, and there seems to have been no outcry at its repeated use over the last week or so.

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