Why Squaw Peak was renamed after Lori Piestewa
A prominent peak in the Phoenix Mountains was named Squaw Peak in 1929 by Omar Turney. From what I've read, he rejected the word "mountain", which had been applied to Camelback Mountain, because, well, these really aren't mountains. But if you live in Phoenix, they're very important, and they look like mountains.
I enjoy learning more about my favorite town, Phoenix, so of course I'm interested in what things are called. I'm interested in the names of streets, buildings, people, everything. And as I learn more, I begin to see things from the perspective of the people who named them. I'm a time-traveler.
When the term "squaw" (which means an American Indian woman) was applied to Squaw Peak, it was a fairly common term. Yes, it was always offensive and degrading, but not as much then as it became in the 21st Century. As a time-traveler, I read old books and understand that times were different back then, because they were. So the decision to change the name of one of the most prominent landmarks in Phoenix from a name that had grown to become very offensive was something that I supported, and I still do.
I didn't know Lori, but I had a friend who did. My friend taught me how to pronounce and spell Piestewa. Of course, I've lived in Phoenix for a long time, so in addition to forgetting that Bank One is now Chase, I find myself forgetting not to say Squaw Peak. But I will continue to say it, a little bit, for the same reason that I will continue to use the term Pima for the Akimel O'ogham people. If you're a historian, you know why. If you're just someone who can't seem to remember not to use a term that has become offensive, then it's time you learned to say Piestewa.
For me, because of my interest in history, I need to know what something was called in order to find it in old documents. To find information from many years ago on the Pima people, I need to find books written about the Pimas, not the Akimel O'ogham people. It's the same with Squaw Peak, and Squaw dresses. So I give myself, and all historians, special dispensation to use the terms.
I hope this helps. So if you hear someone talking about Squaw Peak, or Squaw dresses, or the Pima people, they should be referring to them in an historical context. If they're not, then hopefully they will learn to use the new names, which shows modern respect.
Image above: Squaw Peak in 1970, now called Piestewa Peak.
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Posted by Brad Hall