Flag and Feathers

Three days into the Invasion of Iraq, in the wee hours before dawn, Lori Ann Piestewa (py-ESS-tuh-wah) knew something was wrong. The convoy had taken a wrong turn. They were not in the desert but just outside the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. An ambush ensued. Eleven soldiers were killed and 9 wounded. Several, including Lori’s best friend, Jessica Lynch, were taken POW. Lori Piestewa was one who was killed. She was not only the first woman killed in the Iraqi War, but she was the first Native American woman killed in the Iraqi War.

Lori, a Hopi Indian, was born and raised in Tuba City, AZ which is in the Navajo Nation. Like many young Native Americans, Lori had been in the JR ROTC program during high school and after graduation, married, had 2 children, divorced, moved back home and then joined the military.

On March 23, 2007, The Lady Warrior was honored by the renaming of Squaw Peak near Phoenix, to Piestewa Peak. To think it took the death of the brave young Native American woman to get rid of the term ‘squaw’ when referring to a landmark is unconscionable. The highway that passes near the mountain peak was also named in her honor—Piestewa Freeway.

There has been much discussion on this blog of political correctness and the use of certain terms. I often think we gag ourselves over political correctness. Then again, 2007—Squaw Peak—how inappropriate—how insulting to women—Native women. Why should someone have to die to have the crap stopped? Is political correctness just good manners?

I went to Tuba City fairly shortly after Lori’s death, as a silent pilgrimage to a brave woman. Tuba City is worn. Like many Native American towns, it is rife with poverty and unemployment. The townspeople stared at my traveling companion and me. We do not look Indian. I am certain they wondered why we were there. I didn’t bother them. I just wanted to pay my silent respects to the Native Lady Warrior. Ray Powell does it with more class:

To learn more

To learn even more


To donate:

Lori Piestewa Memorial Fund
Wells Fargo
2625 N. 4th St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

13 thoughts on “Salute To Lori Piestewa

  1. Thank you for reminding us about our Native American sister, MH and for posting donation information.

    It is a travesty the way Native Americans have been relegated to poor communities and reservations, if not by force then by repetitive history inflicted on generation after generation of socially oppressed tribes.

    No wonder some tribe members are still so angry.

  2. Turn PW Blue

    Why is “Squaw Peak” so inappropriate and demeaning to women? You do realize that “squaw” is the Algonquian word for woman (or, more accurately, a younger woman), right? Contrary to the claims of Suzan Shown Harjo (made during an interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show), squaw is not derived from a term for “vagina” (or the more abrasive “c” word). While squaw has come to be used in a derogatory fashion by some, its derivation doesn’t come from anything untoward. It would be like the word “senorita” becoming a term of derision. The pejorative use of the word “squaw” didn’t begin until the 20th century, and the misconceptions about its etymology didn’t show up in print until the 1970s. Much of the “PC” aspect has grown out of ignorance of origin rather than real slights (it was assumed by some that “squaw” is derived from the Mohawk word for “vagina”).

    This in no way diminished the sacrifice of Lori Piestewa, but it should serve as a caution to assumptions about political correctness and polite conversation.

  3. PW, thanks for the history of the word and citations!

    A little off topic, but for a great article on “why people can’t get over color” see
    http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3672.cfm?StartRow=21&id=40

    (I expect Michael to jump in here any moment is he reads the article!)

  4. Moon-howler

    I never heard all the fancy stuff for squaw. I just know it has been used historically in a not so flattering manner. That is reason enough. Somehow it lacks the same dignity than say ‘brave.’

    Squaw has been used universally to mean ‘Indian woman’ regardless of tribe or any universal language.
    Had it not been considered offensive by some, I expect Squaw Peak would have remained Squaw Peak. I never realized how offensive the word was until I ran the southwest jewelry making/buying circuit a few times. I learned fast.

  5. Punchak

    I don’t know about all this “squaw” business, but I DO know that Squaw Valley in California is one of the top ski areas in that state. Even hosted the Winter Olympics about 40 yrs ago.

    I think Moon-howler is a little off base here. I believe the name was changed to honor Piestewa. Maybe there are other peaks in the area that could have changed names but for me anyway, it’s not demeaning to rename Squaw Peak in Piestewa’s name.

    BTW, is there a male equivalent to “squaw”?

  6. A PW County Resident

    As much as I will honor this fallen hero of the subject, I will go off subject for a moment to remind people that Cecilia Turnbough, a wonderful woman who worked during the day at her job and worked her off hours as a hero saving lives as a volunteer medic will be laid to rest this weekend at Hylton Chapel. I am sorry to take this off subject for a moment but I have no other avenue to post this.

    http://www.legacy.com/potomacnews/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonID=120367637

  7. Moon-howler

    Punchak, I never said it was demeaning to rename Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak.

    I am pleased to see Lori Piestewa honored and to have the name ‘squaw’ removed from as many places as possible. I seriously doubt if Squaw Valley will ever change.

    I guess the fact that many Native American women feel the term squaw is demeaning is immaterial? I believe many east coast folks are insulated from some of the prejudice associated with Native Americans.

  8. Moon-howler

    Thank you, A PW County Resident, for reminding us about another fallen warrior, Cecilia Turnbough. She died in service to PW C.

  9. Punchak

    Moon-howler

    Wasn’t “squaw” the more or less common the name of MARRIED Indian women?

    Were young, unmarried women also called “squaws”? I’ve never thought about this.

  10. A PW County Resident

    MH, sorry to have done the diversion. Cecilia was someone I knew through my son. Our family is saddened by the community’s loss as she was very special.

  11. Moon-howler

    Resident, perfectly fine. Good place to honor a PW warrior. She will be missed.

    Punchak, most sources list ‘squaw,’ as an offensive word. It sure wouldn’t be a word I would use around Native American women. “Hey, you squaws got any jewelry for sale?’ No! That would be similar to walking into a kindergarten class and asking all the ‘pickan******’ to raise their hands. It just isn’t done.

    Here is a squaw apologist site. Have at it.
    I am totally amazed that on this blog the use of the word ‘squaw’ would even be questioned.

    http://www.tomjonas.com/squawpeak/squaw.htm

  12. hillbilly woman

    Algonquin in origin or not, ‘squaw’ was widely used for decades as a term of contempt toward native women. This issue is a little like the issues of bullying and sexual harassment. The receiver is the only one who can rightly determine if it is cruel or not. Are we really going to sink to the level of testing verbal cruelty? Let’s let this brave woman be honored as she should be and in the peace she earned beyond question.

  13. i just watched the extreme makeover home edition on tv today and i seen her story i have never cried so much in a show i am a native american of the chinook tribe and i have two kids also i just couldnt imagine how her parents and her kids feel but she is at peace i felt her spirit when i was watching i got the chills and i looked her up on here and seen her memorial she was a hero for sure god bless her and her family and children my prayers are with you all
    lori is an eagle soaring in the beautiful sky

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