Minnesota "squaw" taboo (fwd)

James Murphy (jmurphy@MAGNUS.ACS.OHIO-STATE.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 12:33:02 -0400

I'm forwarding this query and copying John Dyson. Can anyone on Anthro-L offer
any insight? (Stumpers-L is a listserv for difficult library reference

James L. Murphy

Forwarded message:
> From stumpers-l-return@crf.cuis.edu Sun Aug 4 01:33:00 1996
> Date: Sun, 04 Aug 1996 00:14:13 -0500 (EST)
> From: "John P. Dyson" <dyson@indiana.edu>
> Subject: Minnesota "squaw" taboo
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> Comments: STUMPERS-L - Difficult reference questions and answers
> This (AP?) article was in Friday's local paper under a Minneapolis dateline.
> "It's no longer legally correct to have the word 'squaw' attached to the
> name of a lake, island, creek, bay, pond or point in Minnesota.
> "Under a 1995 law, Wednesday was the deadline for the commisioner of
> natural resources, in cooperation with counties, to select new names for
> 19 northern Minnesota land and water features that used the word
> 'squaw.' The law resulted from a Cass Lake High School Indian culture
> class in which two students traced the word 'squaw' to a French
> corruption of an Iroquois epithet for vagina."
> As near as I can tell, "squaw" is a respectable Massachusett word for "young
> woman." Its first known appearance in English is in George Morton's MOURT'S
> RELATION (1622), cited by George B. Cheever in THE JOURNAL OF THE PILGRIMS
> AT PLYMOUTH (1848), where it appears as an adjective: "the _Squa Sachim_,
> or Massachusetts Queene." It was later introduced as a noun in William
> Wood, NEW ENGLAND'S PROSPECT (1634), a citation picked up by the OED for
> its principal definition of the term.
> Can Stumpers in Minnesota let us in on how two high school students managed
> to update that information, current as of 1994? What was the documentation
> that energized the legislature? Who were the assisting librarians on the
> trace?
> John Dyson
> Spanish and Portuguese
> Indiana University