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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Apparently, the state legislature is just as unhappy about the political renaming of Squaw Peak as many residents are. They’re working on enacting a law that insulates the state naming board from gubernatorial meddling and that should result in the re-renaming of Piestewa Peak back to Squaw Peak.

For those of you unfamiliar with the controversy (and who don’t feel like clicking on the previous links), our glorious governor, Janet Napolitano, tried to make some political hay out of the death of Private Lori Piestewa in Iraq by renaming a prominent Phoenix mountain and nearby freeway after her. The mountain in question has come under fire repeatedly in the last decade because Indians (or the AIM activists and graduate students among them) found the term “squaw” offensive. This contention is poppycock, of course, and serves to whip people into a frenzy of righteous indignation and (presumably) donation.

The death of Lori Piestewa is unfortunate. I lament the loss of a mother and soldier. Piestewa was in the same Army group as Jessica Lynch and was one of those killed in an ambush. She should definitely be memorialized in an Iraq War monument or at the monument that stands in front of the Arizona capitol building with the names of Arizona war dead. To name an entire mountain and freeway after her in a city that is as far removed from the Indian reservation on which she lived as can be is unfathomable.

There are rules about naming mountains designed to prevent such political machinations by preventing the naming of them until five years after the person’s death. That seems like a reasonable rule to me. Napolitano strong-armed members of the board into sidestepping that rule and generally threw her weight around in a most clumsy manner—though perfectly fitting with Arizona’s gubernatorial history.

I am not racist. If the mountain’s name were truly offensive, then I think it would be fine to rename it. There are many examples of natural landmarks with the word “nigger” in their names and they have been renamed. Squaw is not offensive, except in a very manufactured sense. Let the name stand and move on to the business of balancing the state budget (or even reducing it, can you imagine!).