FOX CHAPEL, Pa. (KDKA) — A petition in Fox Chapel is calling for the removal of the word “squaw” from parks and streets.
Objections were raised about the word as a derogatory term for Native American women. Earlier this week, the O’Hara Township Council voted to change the name of Squaw Valley Park to O’Hara Township Community Park.
Michele Leonard is Native American and a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. She has lived in Fox Chapel for more than 30 years. She is offended by the frequent use of “squaw” on Fox Chapel roads, parks and even a stream.
“What a great neighborhood to move to, what a great school district to move to. But as an Indigenous person and a woman, to see that word, it smacks you right in the face,” Leonard said.
It’s common to see “squaw” when you drive through Fox Chapel. What is offensive about it?
“It’s been an offensive word for Native people for a very, very long time to the point where it is even defined in Webster’s and Oxford dictionaries as a derogatory sexual slur toward Native women,” Leonard said.
A petition drive, inspired by Leonard and the Black Lives Matter movement, promoted O’Hara Township to remove the “Squaw Valley Park” sign. Fox Chapel Councilman Mandy Steele hopes Fox Chapel will follow suit.
“When you have consensus in a minority community that a word is offensive, we should do our best to respond to that community and move it from our place names,” Steele said.
Steele will propose just that at an Aug. 17 meeting. How will that be received in Fox Chapel? Steele and Leonard are optimistic.
“Our borough council is very receptive to concerns from the community and they want to do what is right. I anticipate that there will be a favorable outcome,” Steele said.