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