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Oklahoma Aims To Strike "squaw" As Offensive Name
OKLAHOMA CITY, June 5 (Reuters) - Oklahoma plans to join a growing number of U.S. states in striking the word "squaw," widely believed to mean an Indian woman, from place names because Native Americans say it is a sexual slur, officials said on Monday.

The state agency in charge of mapping, at the urging of state legislators, has asked nine counties with streams, canyons and other features bearing the name to work with local citizens to change the designation.

Wayne Furr of the Board of Geological Place Names said the action followed a non-binding resolution passed by the state legislature that urges that the word be erased from place names.

"Squaw," a term that dates from the days of white trappers and pioneers, is defined in many dictionaries as an American Indian woman. But critics say it actually is a slur meaning a prostitute or a woman's genitalia.

"They (most people) think squaw means American Indian woman," said Leda Green, a member of the Apache and Otoe-Missouria tribes in Oklahoma. "But in true meaning, it's her body parts. You can take it from there."

The Oklahoma legislature agreed. The resolution, passed unanimously in May, does not carry the force of law but asks state officials to work with local authorities to remedy the problem.

"The word 'squaw' is offensive to Native Americans and a national movement exists to remove this word from all geographic place names," the resolution stated. "The Oklahoma legislature concurs with actions taken by other state legislatures to remove this offensive word from geographic names."

Furr said states including Montana, Maine and Minnesota have passed similar legislation.

The small town of Red Rock started the movement in Oklahoma when a bridge over nearby Squaw Creek was being replaced.

Green, whose Otoe-Missouria tribe has a housing complex near the bridge, said several tribal members started lobbying to change the name and Red Rock Mayor Geary Watson joined the movement.

"If this creek's name was in its English equivalent, it would be considered an unprintable word," Watson told the Daily Oklahoman newspaper.

 
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