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Squaw facts for kids

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Squaw is a word that refers to an Indigenous woman in the United States or Canada.

Many Native Americans consider this an offensive word because it has been used in racist and misogynistic ways. According to the editor of the Navajo Times Tom Aviso, "squaw" is the worst word used on Native American women.


The word "squaw" comes from the Algonquian languages, where it means "woman." In the Massachusset language, the word is "squàw." In Cree, it is "iskwew."

Current use

Squaw is considered an offensive word because many non-Natives have used it to disrespect Native American and Aboriginal Canadian women.

Some people in Indigenous communities think "squaw" is offensive. According to members of the Nooksack Tribal Council, Native Americans in general see "squaw" as an insulting word. Other Native Americans think the word should be reclaimed, meaning made a normal word again.

The root of "squaw" is in some compound words in Algonquin languages that are spoken today: "nidobaskwa" means "female friend," "manigebeskwa" means "woman of the woods," and "Squaw Sachem" means "female chief."

Historical use

European colonizers used the word to talk about Indigenous women.

When white colonists moved west, they used words like "squaw" even when they were talking about women whose tribes spoke languages different from Algonquian. It became a generic word.

Name changes

People in the US and Canada are trying to change place names with the word "squaw" in it because they feel it is not respectful to Indigenous women. However, there are still many places where the word is in the name.

United States

  • In 2003, Squaw Peak in Phoenix, Arizona, was renamed Piestewa Peak to honor Pfc. Lori Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat in the Iraq War.
  • In 2015, the government of the city of Buffalo, NY, voted to change "Squaw Island" to "Unity Island" (Deyowenoguhdoh in the Seneca language).
  • In 2020, the government of Washington State agreed to change "Squaw Creek" back to "Páatstel Creek" because the Nooksack Tribal Council asked them to.


  • In 1988, the Squaw Rapids Dam on the Saskatchewan River was renamed the E.B. Campbell Dam after an engineer.
  • On November 20, 2018, Killsquaw Lake in Saskatchewan - the site of a 19th century massacre of a group of Cree women - was renamed Kikiskitotawânawak Iskêwak, which, in Cree, means "we honor the women." This is important because missing and murdered Indigenous women is a big problem in Canada.

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