Letters to the Editor

Letter: Derogatory names

A Nov. 24 Alaska Public Media article in the ADN told how the derogatory and offensive word “squaw” was being erased from all federal place names, and also mentioned that the 20 Alaska geographic features that contain this word would require state or local action for such removal.

What was not mentioned is the origin of this word: the Algonquin word for “woman” is “squa.” Algonquin, as a subgroup of Native American languages, includes a minimum of 18 East Coast tribes and 10 Central tribes, such as Blackfoot, Cheyenne and Shawnee.

Anthropologists tell us that the first Europeans to arrive on the East Coast in the 1600s learned at least some of the Algonquin language. Somehow their use of the word “squa” became offensive and derogatory?

— Jim Lieb


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