(WKBN) – The U.S. Department of Interior recently announced that 650 geographical features using the name “squaw” had been changed because historically, the term squaw was used as an offensive racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.
Locally, that means Squaw Creek, Little Squaw Creek and Squaw Valley Park Lake will now be called Girard Creek, Little Girard Creek and Girard Valley Park Lake. There could be other changes as well.
A plaque marks Girard’s Glendale Avenue Squaw Creek Bridge in the same neighborhood where Squaw Creek Drive intersects with Squaw Court. When asked if the names of the bridge and roads would have to be changed, Girard Mayor Jim Melfi did not know, calling it “new ground” for him.
“Yeah, I’m absolutely fine with naming it Girard Creek,” said Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio.
Yenyo led the effort to get the name changed from Indians to Guardians and says it was the Native American women who found the term squaw to be derogatory.
“If they feel that’s derogatory then I’m going to stand by those native women and say that it needs to be changed,” Yenyo said.
There are no historical accounts of who named the waterway Squaw, though it does show up as early as 1856 when a map of Trumbull County called it Squaw Run.
“I believe the word squaw could be demeaning not only to Native Americans but to women in general. None of us are in the business to insult our citizens,” Melfi said.
When asked if Native Americans should just get over it, Yenyo responded…
“Let’s get over it. OK, then let’s get over the Holocaust. Let’s get over 9/11. The atrocities that took place on our people continue to happen to this day,” Yenyo said.
Another thing that possibly needs to be changed is the name of Avalon Golf and Country Club at Squaw Creek. Mike Case, the director of marketing and communications, says eventually, the name will be changed to something more appropriate, though there’s no timetable to get it done.
Melfi also said he had no idea that the name change was coming. No one with the federal government ever called him or consulted with him. He said he found out when he heard it on the news.