April 05, 2008

Piestewa or Swilling Peak?

Piestewa Peak name debate in final weekLast April a Prescott, Ariz., historian named Al Bates submitted a request for the panel to consider naming the peak after Jack Swilling, a settler who is considered by some to be one of the original founders of Phoenix.

"The federal guidelines state the site should be named after something or somebody who is related to the site involved," Bates said. "There is no direct relationship between Ms. Piestewa and Squaw Peak in Phoenix. If it's going to be changed, it should be somebody who had a lot to do with what Phoenix has become."

Bates said it would be more appropriate to name a landmark in Navajo territory after Piestewa, who was Mexican, born for Hopi.

Martinez said the committee was appalled upon hearing of Bates' proposal and submitted a letter to the state to dismiss the request.

"Changing it to Swilling Peak would be an insult to everyone," said Martinez, adding that Swilling is cited in history books as an alcoholic and "Indian killer."

"It's not the name you would want for mountain. He was not a role model," Martinez said.

What further upset the committee, Martinez said, was Bates' suggestion that Swilling was responsible for introducing irrigated agriculture to the Phoenix area--something that dates back to pre-Columbian times.

"Those irrigation systems were in place way before settlers came into Phoenix," Martinez said.

"Jack Swilling had the genius to change it into something that would change it forever," Bates said. "This led to the beginning of Phoenix. It led to modern civilization in the Salt River Valley."
More on Jack Swilling:He arrived in Phoenix from Prescott, Arizona, with friend and colleague Darrell Duppa in 1867. In his travels as a rider and scout for the Union, he had been fascinated with the ancient Hohokam ruins and artifacts, especially the extensive network of canals the ancient Indians had dug to irrigate their fields. His concept was that the old canals could be re-built for modern farmers, and that the soil of the valley could support highly productive farms. Within a very short time, the Swilling and Duppa team had water flowing in a canal.

By January 1, 1868, Swilling's home area, where up to fifty more pioneer homes had been built by this time, was known as Pumpkinville--so named for the impressive growth of pumpkins Jack had earlier planted along the canals. Darrell Duppa suggested the name Phoenix--for much like the mythical Phoenix rising from its ashes, a new civilization would soon rise from the ashes of an old.
Another reason for the Piestewa name:Sam Minkler, a professor at Northern Arizona University, is one of the 30 people who submitted a short letter supporting the name change to Piestewa Peak.

Minkler said the word "squaw" may not have been given to the mountain with the intention to hurt anybody, but said it does offend many Native American people and should be changed.

"We live in new times," Minkler said. "We all get smarter, we all get more educated."

Minkler added that the name Piestewa translates loosely to "water pooled on the desert by a hard rain" in Hopi, another benefit to the name.

"Beyond a soldier's name, it also signifies the preciousness of water," he said. "It's an acknowledgment of the water-is-life concept and that's a precious resource in the Valley."
Comment:  So Swilling introduced "modern civilization" to the Phoenix area only by copying an Indian civilization. I guess that's an achievement, but the real achievement was the Indians'. If we want to honor the true founders of Phoenix, let's name the mountain Hohokam Peak.

For more on the subject, see The Myth of Western Superiority and Multicultural Origins of Western Civilization.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Why not? And then, while we're thinking about it, change the name Arizona to Anasazi...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

The Pueblo people wouldn't like that since "Anasazi" means "enemy ancestors" in Navajo.