Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Using historic terms when writing about Phoenix, Arizona

As a former teacher, and just plain someone who prides himself on not blurting out offensive stuff, I am naturally very careful about using terms which many people consider offensive, or that have really become very offensive over the years. But my interest in Phoenix history often compels me to use these terms, within context. If you're taking the time to read this, you already understand, but I want to talk about it, anyway.

I'm fascinated by history, particularly the history of Phoenix. And times have really changed. The buildings have changed, the people have changed, the language has changed. And it's been mostly for the better, believe me. The "old days" in Phoenix were extremely harsh, with some nasty and violent behavior. But of course if you've read about that, you already know. And no, I have no desire to go back to those days, I just want to visit them and learn more.

My favorite sources are original documents. You know, old photos, old newspapers, that sort of thing. I dislike having my history all scrubbed clean and interpreted for me. School-book history is great for children, but I'm not a child anymore. I want to see it myself, bad stuff and all. So I immerse myself in it - I call it time-traveling. And it takes a mature perspective.

If you don't do that, if you just glance at things (which is kind of what we all do on the internet), certain things can be very jarring. Terms that are now racist, and offensive, really have no place in the "glance" of the internet. But these terms do have a place in historical context. Without the original names of things, they become lost, and then they become erased. And as bad as things were in old Phoenix, I would prefer that they not be erased.

Image above: Squaw Peak in the 1970s, now called Piestewa Peak.

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  1. The other issue I've seen with a lot of these terms is that while one usage will switch, others will remain the same, or shift at a different time.

    Examples include Squaw Peak Parkway getting renamed several years after it was already Piestewa Peak (with some side drama of folks wanting to renaming the parkway after Reagan or Goldwater)

    Add in the Spanish history, and you get a lot of issues as well, since the Spanish similarly just applied their own names to thing, ignoring the earlier settler languages. I suspect that years from now, we'll still be talking about how stuff used to be called "Pima", "Maricopa", and "Papago"

    1. Hi Kaszeta - Yes! That's exactly what I mean! So I will learn ALL of the names, and use them for historical research.