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Maine House votes to ban use of word 'squaw'
7.27 p.m. ET (037 GMT) March 15, 2000
By Glenn Adams, Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Responding to pleas from American Indians, the
Legislature took an initial step Wednesday toward removing "squaw'' from the
names of mountains, waterways and townships in Maine.
The word "was cast upon us by white settlers,'' Rep. Donna Loring, who
represents the Penobscot Nation in the Legislature, said before the House
voted 129-17 in favor of the ban. The bill faces further House and Senate
Loring, a non-voting House member, said the word is "dirty, degrading,
shameful.'' As a girl, she said, her mother burst into tears when "sqaw''
appeared as part of the name of their street. Her mother sent her two
brothers out to remove the sign.
But opponents of the ban cited research quoting Indian scholars and
historians as saying they found nothing offensive about the word. They also
expressed concern that free speech rights could be hampered by barring the
use of the name and confusion caused by name changes could hurt some
The word appears on about two dozen sites around the state.
The bill has the support of all five of Maine's Indian tribes.
Other lawmakers said they did not realize how strongly Indians felt
the word until now.
"We have used the word for hundreds of years, and it's time we make
amends,'' said Rep. Harry True, a Republican.
Gov. Angus King said he is sympathetic to the Indians' position.
Minnesota and Montana have purged the word "squaw'' from public sites.
Colorado recently renamed the squawfish the pikeminnow.
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