Removing a Slur

The word squaw referring to a Native American woman is a slur. It is derogatory and offensive and like the N word, some even call it the S word. It is to Native Americans more than an insult to women, it is an insult to the land, and to the whole culture. There are in the US today something like 660 places with that word  in them. And Deb Haaland,  Secretary of the Interior and  the first Native American Cabinet Secretary is looking for replacement names for rivers,  lakes, resorts and other places. These places occur in all but ten states. And not all are on US government owned land.   One of the most famous, Squaw Valley, the Northern California resort of Lake Tahoe which hosted the 1960 Olympics is in private hands. It rebranded itself as Palisades Tahoe a few months ago after a long debate over its identity. As far as California is concerned there are some 100 places with the slur in their names and a bill has been introduced in the state Assembly to rename them. Search engines have not yet caught up with the name changes. Type in Squaw  in Google Maps or Apple Maps and the names of all places will come up, including Squaw Valley. Not all places are as known as this one, some are in more obscure places.

The National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers published a report this year that pointed out that renaming  geographical places  that bear a name that is a slur to Native  American or African American women was not an effort to cancel history.  It said, “Rather it is an opportunity to provide a more honest accounting of America’s past and a gesture towards healing historic wounds.”

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