New law will remove the word ‘squaw’ from California place names: ‘Squaw’ was removed from the names of two California Native American tribes
The word’squaw’ is being eliminated from California place names because it is too close to the other word in the same language, ‘wampum.’
The word “squaw” comes from the word “wampum,” a type of shell or bone shell that serves as money in tribal economies. The word “squaw” sounds the same in many languages, including Navajo, Apache and Plains Apache of Arizona and Texas.
In the 1930s, a woman named Lucy was asked to change the name of a place in California to “Squaw Mountain” after the tribesmen who lived there. The tribes did not want that name attached to their land. When she refused, the man who had asked her to change the name of the place threatened to beat the woman, so she changed her name to “wampum.”
But the U.S. government objected that the word “squaw” was too close to wampum and that the tribesmen should be called “squaw men.”
Under federal law, the U.S. Department of the Interior is to consider the “historical role” of the word “squaw” in the American Indian tribes in determining if it is eligible as a place name under the U.S. Code. In other words, the word “squaw” would no longer be considered a place name.
“Because the U.S. Code does not allow for using “squaw” in place names, we need to look at the issue from an historical perspective to determine whether it fits in historical context and is acceptable,” said Dina Wolfe, tribal chairman of the Tohono O�