PROVO, Utah — A new group is beginning a push to change the name of Squaw Peak in Provo to something more honorable to Native American women.
The Repeak Committee is leading the effort to remove the word “squaw” from the name of the iconic jagged mountain, The Daily Herald reported Thursday.
The push comes after a U.S. government board voted to rename another geological feature, Moab’s Negro Bill Canyon, to Grandstaff Canyon.
Provo resident Chauma Jansen, who is working with the new independent committee, believes the term Squaw is both derogatory and demeaning.
“It is meant to belittle somebody or belittle their worth. Historically it has been used to (mean) prostitution as well as sexual violence against women,” said Jansen, whose heritage is Navajo, Sioux and Assiniboine.
The mountain located near Brigham Young University was named around the 1850s. The origins are cloudy of the name are cloudy. The most common story is that it was named after a member of the Timpanogos Ute tribe who fell to her death as they were being pursued by white settlers, BYU history professor Jay Buckley said. But, he said, the story may be more anecdotal than historic fact.
The committee is preparing a proposal to send to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is responsible for standardizing geographic names.
A Squaw Peak in Arizona was renamed in 2003 to Piestewa Peak in honor of Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to killed in US military combat.
The Provo group hopes to the rename the mountain after a Ute woman, and has reached out to the tribe for name recommendations and approval.
It hopes to finalize the proposal by February. The group will present its message at a lecture at Utah Valley University next week.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com