To the Editor:

Regarding the proposal to remove the term "squaw" from Grant County locations and our geographic vocabulary, I personally have no objection to doing the politically correct thing when certain terms cause feelings to be hurt. However, I believe that objections to the word "squaw" have originated from false information and possibly radical political views.

My family learned to correct a lifetime of bad verbal habits when our oldest brother brought home a Nez Perce girlfriend. This mixed-race couple had children and married. So we made the attempt to give up Hollywood "Injun-speak" and many terms that were simply part of our Eastern Oregon vocabulary. One of my personal words that caused the most offense was "squaw." I was told this was a white man's term and that it was disrespectful.

Now in the 1960s when our family debate was taking place I was anything but a scholar; however, I could not buy into their reason for taking offense. I knew that the indigenous people of pre-Columbian North America had spoken a multitude of languages and dialects. It seemed more likely that a tribe that first contacted Europeans referred to their women as squaws.

When I researched this matter, I found that an Algonquin tribe, the Massachusett native people (no "s" added), had a name very near to "squaw" for "woman" with no negative connotation implied. Early white settlers adapted this word and in time, standardized "squaw" for all indigenous women. No insult was associated with the term.

All this fuss several hundred years later seems to have originated from a more recent politically incorrect movement (lead by some pale-face, speaking with a forked-tongue) that has mistakenly linked use of the term to a portion of a Mohawk word for a personal female body part. Historically, there is little evidence of "squaw" being used as a slur. Before we go about replacing our local names with terms that cannot practically work for English speaking people, let's educate ourselves about the truth of the meaning of "squaw" as the Massachusett speaking people used it.

Terry Steele


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