- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - A movement is afoot to change a controversial street name near a Phoenix mountain that formerly had a title which offended Native Americans and others.

The mountain was changed from “Squaw Peak” to “Piestewa Peak” more than a decade ago in honor of American Indian soldier Lori Piestewa, who died in the Iraq war. But the name deemed derogatory by many remains on a city street near the landmark.

Mayor Greg Stanton has called for a renaming of Squaw Peak Drive and asked city staff last fall to start the name change process, The Arizona Republic reported (https://bit.ly/2iX7lQb).

Monica Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Street Transportation Department, said the city is still researching the issue and has not yet reached out to residents that would be affected by the name change.

Under Phoenix policy, doing away with Squaw Peak Drive would require 75 percent of property owners in the area to sign a petition in support of the effort. There are roughly 20 homes along the street.

Amanda Blackhorse, who hikes at Piestewa Peak, said she is bothered by the street name. The word serves as a reminder of the hundreds of years of oppression that indigenous people have faced, she said.

“It’s so derogatory that it makes me cringe, literally,” Blackhorse said. “When it stays there, it kind of looms over everyone.”

If city officials do eventually decide to rename the street, the move is likely to face some pushback. The state’s decision to change the name of the mountain in 2003 prompted protests and many people spoke out in favor of keeping the peak’s old title.

Blackhorse said she often hears people still referring to the mountain as “Squaw Peak” and that having the old name on the nearby street creates more confusion.

“Once that’s gone, maybe we can all move forward,” Blackhorse said.

The Phoenix Human Relations Commission, which deals with issues of equality and discrimination, is expected to discuss the street name change at a Jan. 23 meeting. The group could recommend the City Council take up the matter for a vote.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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