April 02, 2008

Tough question for Squaw supporters

Piestewa:  The new name for sacrificeNot long after the 23-year-old soldier lost her life in Iraq, becoming the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military, I put the question into a column suggesting that we change the name of Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak.

The people who most vehemently opposed that idea at the time said that it wasn't the name change that bothered them but the fact that Gov. Janet Napolitano decided to steamroll the normal five-year waiting period for such an honor.

Well, five years have passed.

You still can be angry at Napolitano for speeding up the process and at people like me for encouraging her, but you can no longer duck the question.

Would you call Piestewa a squaw? Would you call any Native American woman a squaw?

Because if you wouldn't, and if you wouldn't expect people in my business to do so, or for politicians to do so when honoring soldiers like Piestewa, then you recognize the word for what it always has been: An insult.
Comment:  The cartoon below suggests what's wrong with the word "squaw."


dmarks said...

Do you want to see a Squaw Cam? They have one at this site

Rob said...

Squaw Valley is one case--perhaps the only case--where you could claim the name has historic importance. To avoid controversy and a backlash, it's probably the last name activists should try to change.

dmarks said...

I don't know, Rob.... I was doing something recently, and had the TV on in the background. CBS Sports was airing some sort of event taking place there and I just kept hearing the word "Squaw" being repeated over and over.... didn't sound quite right.

Rob said...

Well, I don't mind if they change that name too. But when people resist changing a less historic name like "Squaw Peak," it tells me we still have a lot of battling ahead. I'd say we should concentrate on the most offensive and least defensible names first and save the toughest challenges for last.