Squaw Peak, other locations, could get new names under Utah bill

Dec 8, 2020, 10:43 AM
Squaw Peak...
Squaw Peak, the prominent peak at center left of photo, is a mountain above Provo. (Photo: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)
(Photo: Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Dozens of locations around the state, including Squaw Peak near Provo, could be renamed if a proposed state bill is passed.

Bill addresses controversial names like Squaw Peak

It comes as some Native American groups and lawmakers continue to call for the renaming of Squaw Peak and 55 other locations around the state where that word appears.

The Place Name Amendments bill would allow the Utah Division of Indian Affairs to create an application template for communities, including Native American communities, to apply to change the name of a place. 

So far, the bill has received a favorable recommendation from the Native American Legislative Liaison Committee. Lawmakers expect to review it during the upcoming legislative session in January.

“I’ve heard it all my life”

Ed Naranjo, a Goshute man, gets credit for the bill gaining steam. Around three years ago, he wrote a letter to state Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, explaining the issue.

“I’ve heard it all my life growing up, especially when I was a younger person in school. And people used to refer to our Native women as ‘squaws.’ And it seemed to be, the way they were saying it, was derogatory and insensitive and belittling our Native women,” Naranjo told the Deseret News. “And it stuck with me, and people just continue to use it. And I see references to it occasionally.” 

Naranjo hopes that a change will occur; he’s happy to see growing interest in the issue.

“My daughters, most recently my granddaughters, they asked, ‘Why does somebody call me a squaw? What does that mean?’ And it just hits your heart. How do you explain it to your child other than people are just that way, and they are negative,” he said. “You don’t want to spread that kind of message to young kids because they are learning a lot, and if we tell them that these people are mean and they just don’t care, that they are prejudiced, they might just grow up thinking that that’s how a lot of people are.”

The bill comes as more people question the use of Native American stereotypes in place names and sports. Most recently, Bountiful High School announced it would drop its “Braves” moniker. The school did not decide on a new mascot yet.

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Squaw Peak, other locations, could get new names under Utah bill