New law will remove the word ‘squaw’ from California place names
Updated on Tuesday, December 1, 2008 at 8:30 PM CDT: The state House of Representatives has approved legislation to remove the last “squaw” from state place names. The proposal, AB 2063, was approved in a 54-17 vote.
Proposed legislation would remove “squaw” from the final portion of nearly 8,000 place names that refer to Native peoples in California.
The legislation approved Tuesday is a first step in a long-overdue push by advocates for removing “squaw” from so-called California Native American names.
“We’ve got to get these names off the government list,” said Sen. Tom Berry, R-Cottonwood Heights. The Senate approved AB 2063 on a 38-16 vote in May. Lawmakers have held hearings, submitted written testimony and put forth a legislative package this year to remove the “squaw” from so-called Indian names.
The word is used as a description for Native Americans in California in about 85 place names.
Proponents argue the “squaw” has no place in traditional Native American names that don’t identify a tribe or community. Many names simply refer to a place where a tribe or tribe of European descent lived.
“It’s not a proper name, and it’s a name that has no meaning,” state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said in May. “If these names are off the public registry, then they are off the public record. That’s the way it should be.”
The proposed legislation defines “squaw” as a Native American term meaning “little horse” in the Cherokee language.
Proponents of the legislation say the “squaw” is also used as an insult and has the effect of denigrating Native communities and is inappropriate even outside of government records.
The bill was sent to legislative committee and is expected to be considered by the full