Denogean: Controversy over Piestewa hopefully over
There is debate over the origin of the word, which may be rooted in an innocuous word for young woman or wife or may have come from a more vulgar term.
But in the 1800s and 1900s, settlers used the word to demean and stereotype American Indian women as dirty drudges, beasts of burden with no rights and no sense of morality, said K. Tsianina Lomawaima, head of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.
"I think that anyone who would argue that in 2008 that the word today carries no negative connotation is just ridiculous," she said. "I think it would be right up there with the n-word for African-Americans."
Tom Holm, a UA professor of American Indian Studies and Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, said he's heard the argument that squaw is part of the state's Wild West history and naming traditions.
"They don't want to change this because they think it's part of their culture. But part of their culture is racist," he said.