This offensive names law should settle 'squaw' issue for good
Written by Editorial staff Sunday Telegram
from Sunday Telegram
Nine years after the Maine Legislature outlawed the word "squaw" from the list of acceptable public place names, some Maine communities still thought they could spell their way out of trouble.
By dropping a letter or two off the end of the offensive name, it remained attached to public property, identified on maps and street signs.
This was not the intent of the Legislature, when after listening to both sides of the argument, it chose to rename those places. Even though offending people was not what the namers had intended, the place names were in fact deeply offensive to many Native American Mainers.
Changing the spelling just continued that offense, and since it comes in defiance of a state law, it's doubly hurtful. No one can claim that they didn't know that they were hurting anyone. The only possible way to interpret their insistence is that they did know that the name was offensive to some, but didn't care.
Owners of private property are free to make that choice, although it's difficult to see why they would. But public places should not be given names that single out certain racial or ethnic groups for insult. It's just not right.
Gov. Baldacci has signed legislation that now ties up the loose ends and prevents sneaky spelling from continuing to offend Mainers of American Indian heritage.
No Native American child should have to visit a place, travel a public road or see a name on a map that either by intent or indifference contains an ethnic slur against them.
That's what the state wanted nine years ago when the original legislation was passed, and that's what should finally be achieved by this latest version of the law.
Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (MITSC)
13 Commissary Point Road, Trescott Township, ME 04652
Paul Thibeault, Managing Director: 207-271-7762