New law will remove the word ‘squaw’ from California place names
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a resolution calling for a federal judge to declare the U.S. Army’s decision to rename a Native American village on California’s Central Coast as part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Rep. Joe Baca, D-Sunland, introduced the resolution Wednesday, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would remove the name Native Village.
Last Thursday, the Army Corps removed the language about the village’s historic significance from its online database. But it will keep the name “Squaw Peak” — which describes a landscape feature, not a native group — on its website.
A lawyer for the American Indian Movement, which requested the Army Corps of Engineers to retain the historical significance, said the resolution has no bearing on the Army Corps’ decision to remove the name of the Native Village from the Register’s database.
“As a result of the resolution, you will never find the Native Village name on the National Register,” said Michael Shiner, according to a news release from his law firm, Shiner Law. “This is not about the Army Corps of Engineers in any way other than to show how the community thinks they can get away with censorship.”
Baca and Shiner also sued the Army Corps, claiming the agency violated the Constitution and his clients’ rights.
On Wednesday, Baca presented a resolution to the House. The legislation and the resolution were introduced on behalf of the tribal groups, but they were not officially recognized.
“We feel there are legitimate public concerns,” Baca said. “It’s a historical and cultural issue.”
The California Department of Parks and Recreation says Squaw Peak’s history dates back to the 1890s, when a Spanish American Indian village was established in the area.
The land was purchased by the government in 1875 and served as the Camp Elliott training camp until 1891, when it was converted to a military reservation, said spokeswoman Kate Kiefer. The camp’s name was changed to Pacific Pines in 1952