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What is the s-word? State bill would ban it from location names

Welcome sign for the city of Squaw Valley, Calif.
Flickr Creative Commons
Welcome sign for the city of Squaw Valley, Calif.

Highland state assemblymember James Ramos has introduced legislation that would ban the term ‘squaw’ from state location names.

Webster’s dictionary defines the term as a North American indigenous woman. Ramos says the term is hurtful and goes back to the colonel era when Native American women were looked upon as less than equal compared to other women.

“So to put it to any of those other degrading names that would be forbidden to call women in society, this name ranks there or even higher than those,” said state assemblymember James Ramos.

Ramos refers to the term as the ‘s-word,’ which is contained in more than 100 places across the state, with at least nine of those in Riverside and San Bernardino County. “We’re hoping that local jurisdictions will take heed to the bill that’s coming and voluntarily start to change these names on their own,” said Ramos.

The bill, AB-2022, coincides with secretarial orders given out by the U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, which would look to review and rename 650 U.S. geographic locations. Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.

Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.