New law will remove the word ‘squaw’ from California place names
SAN FRANCISCO — A new law will remove the word “squaw” from California place names starting in January as part of a broader effort to change that word’s cultural and historic impact on Native Americans.
The law will be in effect for nine months beginning Jan. 1.
It comes after the state Assembly adopted SB 1182 this summer, with support from the state’s Native American tribes and the California State Architect’s Office. The law provides the state’s tribes and tribes’ members with more power to protect and promote their cultural and heritage rights, while promoting more respectful communication, particularly between tribes and the state.
The California State Architect, in its online guide, lists the state’s many official place names with the word “squaw” in them, the most notable being “Squaw Creek” and “Squaw Canyon.”
The state Architect’s Office says the reason the word is used in place names, which are also often used in business, is because it was once part of Native American language and culture.
“The Squaw [were] a Native American tribe in the California area and the word squaw is derived from the word Squaw,” states the Guide.
The Native American tribes have long identified the word “squaw” as derogatory and unacceptable. The word, which is also often used in business, can be seen as “the epitome of stereotypes, prejudice and negative stereotyping,” states the Native American tribes’ letter, “Squaw Language and Cultural Rights Language.”
This new law, the guide states, “will ensure that the public will not be subjected to this negative racial connotation and will make it illegal for anyone to use the language and cultural attributes of the Squaws in any place name.”
The tribes’ letter adds, “The state will hold individuals, corporations, and other businesses to an obligation to minimize the negative impact that has on our people and our culture and to uphold the principle that our people should be treated as first-class citizens and accorded their place in our society and our history.”
“There are a lot of Native American place names that have been changed, a lot of people have complained, we have talked about how the word’squaw’ is degrading,” said the letter.
The Native American tribes are also concerned that the