Saturday, December 11, 2004

Renaming 'Squaw' Sites Proves Touchy in Oregon

SISTERS, Ore. - It took two years for members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to persuade Oregon lawmakers to remove the word "squaw" from the state's maps, which are filled with places like Squaw Meadow, Squaw Flat and, here in central Oregon, Squaw Creek.

Figuring out what to rename these places has proved more complicated. Around the Warm Springs reservation and the nearby town of Sisters, three years of pointed debate among local tribal leaders has produced 42 alternatives to Squaw Creek in three native languages.

Many of the suggestions are hard for English speakers and even some Indians to pronounce, like "ixwutxp." It means "blackberry" in the Wasco language. Other suggested Indian names are spelled using a lowercase "l" with a slash through it, signifying a guttural "tla" sound that does not exist in English.