New law will remove the word ‘squaw’ from California place names
California lawmakers have agreed to remove the word “squaw” from Native American place names in the state.
The proposal by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Coronado, also allows the use of the term “Indian” rather than “squaw” in place names, as well as new references to the Hopi and Yurok tribes.
Under the proposal now being considered by the Senate, California’s five Native American tribes are among the many that will benefit from the law that would change the way places are referred to by removing the word “squaw.”
“Squaw” refers to a Native American Indian who was married to a European man and who often married more than one tribal member, creating groups that have often been referred to as “squaw tribes.”
“The ‘Squaw’ concept is a way of classifying Native American women as’squaw’ for centuries, and it still is reflected in language and cultural ways of talking about our people today,” said Robert P. George, chairman of the State of California’s Historical Resources Commission, in a news release.
“A law that recognizes the traditional way of talking about Native Americans will make our place names more accurate and transparent,” said Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Coronado, in the news release. “We’re fighting the old ways, and moving toward greater accuracy and truth. This law is part of that effort.”
The proposal states that “squaw” includes “any female who becomes a member of a tribal family by marrying a non-Native American individual and who in turn becomes a member of the family by remaining with the person.”
“It’s a historical term that’s really important to native Americans and Native women, as well as the women who have worked to bring the women’s movement, to be seen as women, not as a way of humiliating and separating themselves from their people,” said state Rep. Bob Huff, D-San Dimas, in the news release.
“Now it’s part of our history that will be part of the history of California,” said state Sen. Ron Calder