By Neil Nisperos
Old Town Baking Company owners have received emails and Facebook messages in recent weeks demanding that the name be changed.
Native American groups consider "squaw" a deeply derogatory term, said USC professor David Treuer, an acclaimed novelist who writes Native American-themed literature. Treuer said he was taken aback when he saw the bread during a recent visit to a local grocery store.
"I saw the bread and I was a little stunned," said David Treuer, who is from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians in Minnesota.
"I know it's a type of bread, and they're not the only company that makes that bread. I was sort of surprised to see a bread with that name in the bakery aisle of the local supermarket. It is universally understood, particularly with native people as a slur. It has been used as a slur for a couple hundred years."
Treuer sent an email to Old Town Baking Company officials on Feb. 8 informing them of the offensive nature of the word.
Treuer's brother Anton, a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, created a Facebook page calling on Old Town Baking Company to change the name of the bread.
A debate soon erupted on the Old Town Baking Company Facebook page over the term. The commentary included Anton Treuer posting a message that said, "We can't demand respect with disrespect."
The owners of the bread company said some of the messages were hurtful.
Don Bishop had tears in his eyes when he recently discussed his family being characterized as racist. His grandmother was Cherokee and was born on the Oconaluftee Reservation in North Carolina.
Bishop's grandfather used the phrase "sweet squaw" as a term of endearment for his grandmother, and the sweet wheat bread baked by his grandmother was referred to by her as "squaw."
Bishop said he was shocked when he learned about the offensive nature of the term. A post on the company's Facebook page said, "We have always known this word to mean 'woman.'"
"My father-in-law remembers his grandfather using the term in a loving and respectful way and perfected the recipe as a tribute to the Native American culture," Bishop said.
"We ... are heartbroken and so sad that we would unknowingly have a name of one of our products that could be offensive to the Native American community."
This protest began a week or two after I posted Native Stereotypes in Breakfast Foods and Milton's Squaw Bread. But this is a different company and I don't think there's a connection.
I gather squaw bread is a type of bread and many people and companies make it:
Does anyone know what Squaw Bread is?
So these bakeries didn't choose the name "Squaw" because they thought it sounded cool. They were merely offering a type of bread commonly known as squaw bread.
So nobody meant to slur Natives with this term. But the fact remains that Natives don't like it. There's no reason to use a term that few people are familiar with, and a good reason to change it. So give up "squaw bread" and call it "Grandmother's Bread" or something.
For more on "squaw," see Columnist Defends Mummers Parade and Limbaugh Calls Warren "Squaw Indian Giver."