Squaw Peak Name To Be Restored?
Many Republicans in the legislature feel that Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, unduly influenced the last year’s panel’s decision to honor the fallen female soldier, calling it a “political move”. Even Napolitano agrees the change was badly handled.
It essence what the Republican dominated state legislature is trying do is replace six of the nine members of the Arizona Sate Geographic and Historic Names Board who according to them were coerced by Napolitano into voting in favor of the name change from Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak. HB 2007 is being co-sponsored by all but one of the 39 House Republicans,
“This should have been a non-political decision and is was made a total political decision,” Hanson said. “This whole thing was a disservice to Lori Piestewa.”
The bill would strip the board of any gubernatorial influence by having eight of the nine members appointed by the legislature. The remaining appointment would go to the director of the Arizona Historical Society.
National guidelines require a person to be dead for five years before a geographic feature is named for him or her.
The name change for Squaw Peak was made by the state board about a month after Piestewa’s death but won’t be considered on the national level until the year 2008.
The change back to Squaw Peak is going to generate some opposition. Alida Montiel of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona which supported the name change to Piestewa Peak states, “With Piestewa, there is a common ground among tribes, veterans and a lot of people who feel the word ‘squaw’ is derogatory.
In My opinion, O. Ricardo Pimentel, an Arizona Republic columnist said it best in his column in the January 15th edition of the paper headlined -‘Squaw’ isn’t fit for use even in casual talk.
“The continuing argument over Piestewa Peak can be settled with just one question. Is “squaw” a racial slur?
“Forget the history lessons about the word’s origins. Here’s the test for those who are surreptitiously making a pitch to get the peak renaming reversed by again attacking the process.
“If they were making a speech to (and I’m making this group up) the Native Americans of Arizona Association, would they say, ‘Thank you for inviting me to speak today. Squaws and gentlemen, let us now discuss the weighty topic of . . . . ‘
“Of course they wouldn’t. It’s a slur. You know it. I know it. They know it but will never admit it.
“So, if the word isn’t fit to be in a speech or casual conversation, why is it O.K. to grace a public landmark. And if it’s slur, why wouldn’t we want it changed like, yesterday.”
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“It will be interesting to see what sort of renaming frenzy occurs when former President Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease regrettably passes. There will be little patience for waiting five years if a geographical place seems suitable.
“A perverse part of me hopes for the success of the 38 GOP legislators who have signed on to the bill. They would replace the panel that renamed the peak to one mostly appointed by legislators.
“If, as they really hope, it becomes Squaw peak again, I want to see how folks run on a campaign that touts restoring a racial slur. It’s clear. They would much prefer the process that retained the slur than the one that rejected it.”
This article was rewritten and edited from the pages of the Yuma Daily Sun and The Arizona Republic.
Bobbie Hart O’Neill