FOX CHAPEL, Pa. (KDKA) – November is National Native American Heritage Month. For a Native American who lives in Fox Chapel, the month is even more special, with borough leaders changing an offensive term, “squaw.”
For decades, a Native American woman in Fox Chapel has had to see the word every day on her own street in Fox Chapel. It’s a term that demeans Native American women.
Michele Leonard, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, has enjoyed her more than 30 years living in Fox Chapel. What’s been offensive, however, is living on Squaw Run Road. Squaw is a demeaning slur, a dehumanizing label for Native American women.
“Instead of calling them a Native American woman, it was always, ‘hey squaw, why don’t you come over and do this? Why don’t you come over and do that?’” Leonard explains.
So Leonard spent the past few decades trying to educate her Fox Chapel neighbors about the word she so detested.
“Almost every time that I brought it up, someone always said to me ‘I didn’t know, I just didn’t know,'” said Leonard.
But nothing was ever done about it until Mandy Steele began serving on the Fox Chapel borough council.
“Having a slur in our place names is not good for us longterm. And it doesn’t represent us,” said Steele.
Steele and Leonard joined forces to convince the council to eliminate the term from its roads and parks. It wasn’t easy, but the council finally agreed.
“She brought us together to rally around this important cause. It happens to be Native American Month and we couldn’t feel happier,” said Steele.
“People do not like change. But even more, they do not like to be told that they made a mistake,” said Leonard.
Fox Chapel has finally admitted the mistake. They’re renaming their roads. The word squaw is no longer part of the community.