Ariz. landmark renamed for Hopi soldier killed in Iraq
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FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2003

Lori Piestewa, 23, confirmed dead in Iraq. File Photo El Paso Times.
HONORED: Army private first class Lori Piestewa was killed in action in Iraq. File Photo © El Paso Times.
Lori Piestewa, 23, confirmed dead in Iraq. File Photo El Paso Times.
NAMES: Squaw Peak and Squaw Peak Parkway will be changed.
It wasn't the first change of its kind and it definitely won't be the last.

But a decision on Thursday to rename two "squaw" place names in Arizona in honor Lori Piestewa, the Hopi woman killed in action in Iraq, will certainly go down in history as a significant victory in a nationwide campaign to eliminate a term many Native Americans consider offensive.

In a 5-1 vote, the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names agreed to rename Squaw Peak, outside of Phoenix, and Squaw Peak Parkway. The move came after a three-hour public hearing that drew an estimated 100 people.

"Lori's legacy will live on but I hope you enhance that legacy," Delia Carlyle, the vice-chair of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, told the panel.

The Piestewa family, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) and several tribes championed the new name. But in voting against the proposal, Lloyd Clark of the Arizona Historical Society, accused his colleagues of caving to political pressure while Richard Pinkerton, a retired state transportation official, resigned the board in protest.

And the board's chairman, Tim J. Norton, a citizen's representative, refused to attend the meeting. Earlier, he openly questioned whether the panel should flout state and federal guidelines by waiving a five-year-grace period for deceased persons and he suggested Piestewa, who grew up on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in northeastern Arizona, lived too far from Phoenix to matter.

Also, Some Republican lawmakers criticized Napolitano for taking up the cause. Critics aside, "the name is now Piestewa Peak," said Tim Nelson, the governor's general counsel.

Piestewa, 23, was killed in Iraq when her Army unit was ambushed on March 23, according to the Department of Defense. A member of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss in Texas, her saga -- she was first reported missing in action -- prompted an outpouring of support from Indian Country and elsewhere.

That sentiment propelled public opinion to finally change Squaw Peak and Squaw Peak Parkway. The state board had been asked twice in the past take up the issue but it took a strong campaign by Napolitano, and support in the state's major newspapers, and to make Piestewa Peak and Piestewa Parkway a reality.

The speed of the effort's success belied the difficult fight many Native Americans have encountered throughout the country. After decades of lobbying, several states -- including Maine, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Montana and Oregon -- have begun to eliminate references to "squaw" either by legislative action or by public policy.

Other states are still confronting the issue. In Idaho, tribes lobbied heavily to pass a bill to rename "squaw" place names. When it was defeated, Native women marched on the governor's office and protested loudly.

Arizona's newest landmarks will be recognized in the state immediately, although the freeway change won't be official for a month more or so. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, an inter-agency federal panel, would have to recognize Piestewa Peak. There is no indication of when that might occur.

The origins of the word "squaw" are in dispute. Prominent Algonquin scholars say it means "woman" and have balked at the campaign to eliminate the word from place names in New England. But other academics, who also cite Algonquin language, say it refers to female genitalia.

Whatever the origins, the word has garnered a derogatory connotation. Napolitano is said to be embarrassed by it.

Relevant Links:
Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names -
U.S. Board on Geographic Names -

Related Stories:
Some Ariz. GOP unhappy with Piestewa plans (4/17)
Editorial: Don't wait five years to change name (4/17)
Pequot tribe donates scholarship to family (4/17)
Column: What's Better - Squaw Peak or Piestewa Peak? (4/17)
More support and opposition for Piestewa Peak (4/17)
Hopi Tribe to honor Piestewa in official ceremony (4/16)
Thousands remember Piestewa in memorial service (4/14)
Editorial: Stop making excuses for Squaw Peak (4/14)
Navajo lawmakers cite poor timing for name change (4/14)
More reaction to renaming peak for Piestewa (4/14)
Piestewa service to take place in Tuba City (4/11)
Piestewa, the Lady Warrior, honored at pow-wow (4/11)
More opinions on renaming peak for Piestewa (4/11)
Reaction: 'One of the Fallen Heroes' (4/10)
Piestewa story extends beyond Indian Country (4/10)
Don't expect Piestewa Peak any time soon (4/10)
Column: Name change is more than just symbolism (4/10)
Footnotes to a war: What about Private Lori? (4/10)
How to Donate to Lori Piestewa Memorial Fund (4/9)
Editorial: Rename Ariz. peak in honor of Piestewa (4/8)
Column: Would anyone call Piestewa a 'squaw'? (4/8)
Piestewa death investigated as war crime (4/8)
Memorial set for fallen soldiers from Ft. Bliss (4/8)
Snow in Hopiland heralds return of Piestewa (4/7)
DoD confirms Piestewa killed in action in Iraq (4/7)
Indian Country mourns loss of Native soldier (4/7)
Hopi Woman Confirmed Dead (4/5)
Readers react to Piestewa tragedy (4/5)
Letters of Support Lori Piestewa and Family(4/4)
Piestewa: 'When is his mom coming home?' (4/4)
Rescued soldier has no information on Piestewa (4/4)
Military begins difficult identification process (4/4)
Rescued soldier watched unit members die (4/3)
Fellow Piestewa unit member rescued in Iraq (4/2)
Vigil held in Ariz. for missing Hopi soldier (3/27)
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Piestewa Family Letter: Thank you for prayers (3/26)
Ariz. soldier reported missing (3/25)