'Squaw' and mindless parroting of bad science

  Dear HCN,

I have been amused for the past 30 years each time someone takes umbrage at the use of the word squaw while making the assertion that it is a vulgar term invented by white man to demean Native American women. We did encourage and abet the destruction of the early inhabitants by means inexorable, foul and deadly. We, like so many of those who swept out of Africa lo these many millennia, did sweep outward and eventually westward to supplant any we could conquer. We engorged or destroyed cultures and generally won the argument that whatever we have is ours because we stole it fair and square. One thing we did not do was invent or adapt the word squaw as a term for Native American women.

The fact that the argument was started in the early '70s in an assertion by an Indian Rights activist who was overstating his point of cultural iconclasm has been ignored almost from the get go. Also, the fact that the word squaw does not nor did it ever indicate anything other than a general description of a female and that the word's etymology is Eastern Native American has never held sway with those who are quick to be offended. Anti-intellectual, emotional and just plain prissy idiots are, for the rest of time, I suppose, going to try to perpetuate this fallacy, this canard, this wonderful and imaginative justification of proof that the European conquerors did no good and nothing but harm.

I hope you at HCN are proud of the obnoxious presentation of rank stupidity in your latest edition (HCN, 4/23/01: Heard around the West) by Betsy Marston. I do have to say that I am still trying to decide whether my 8-year-old will be allowed to read this edition as his bedtime story. Parenthetically, my son and I together have been reading this paper for two years now and he does understand more than some and, fortunately, less than others what is written. I think Marston can do better. I think she could, if she would get off her high horse, go through the whole of the literature and discover that this particular argument is mindless, misdirected, misanthropic and wrong and woefully supported by unthinking ejaculations of commiserative pettings. What is normally a great chance to find thoughtful and honest writings and expositions has been misused by Ms. Marston and I am disappointed in you for allowing it to happen.

Tom M. Theobald
Peoria, Arizona

High Country News Classifieds