“If I was to marry a white man and he would dare call me a ‘squaw’—as an epithet with the sarcasm that we know so well—I believe that I would feel like killing him.”- Mourning Dove (1927)
Squaw Definition in Wikipedia: “Squaw is an English language loan-word, used as a noun or adjective, whose present meaning is an indigenous woman of North America. It is derived from the eastern Algonquian morpheme meaning ‘woman’ that appears in numerous Algonquian languages variously spelled squa, skwa, esqua, sqeh, skwe, que, kwa, ikwe, exkwew, xkwe, etc. At present, the term is often held to be offensive.”
Squaw is said to be used as a term for “Vagina” in some of the Algonquin language groups. It is also a suffix to some terms for women in others. Whatever the root of the word, the word itself has been used in a derogatory fashion by countless individuals to induce shame and hurt Indigenous women.
I google searched the term “squaw” for images and I was astounded to see TONNES of pictures pop up.
There was the earlier era usage of it when used by the media as shown in the picture below. Indigenous women were framed early on as the “squaw” by the media and in turn categorized by the mainstream public at large.
I’d say around 50-60 percent of the images that came up were non-indigenous women marketing “squaw outfits” or posing for photographs. These CURRENT media portrayals are perpetuating the term squaw and sexualization of our Nations female bodies.
This photo, I have no words for.
I agree that those who have the word “squaw” within their original language should reclaim it and use it in the context that it should be used for. It is NOT in my language, and I AM NOT YOUR SQUAW.
I come from a younger generation, I am only 25, but I have had experiences where this term was used in a hurtful fashion against me. I can recall being encircled by a group of drunken cowboys who poked at me and called me “squaw” in between their sneers and Budweiser gulps. I can only imagine the decades of harm that this word has done before me to those older than I and lived through racism at its heights.
It’s not JUST about the word SQUAW. It is about the perceptions surrounding Indigenous women today.
We are either the squaw or Pocahontas. These are the two categories available to us and that the mainstream population and media still likes to slot us into. If we fail to fit into one of these categories, we become invisible.
Within invisibility, lies dehumanization.
With dehumanization, equals “acceptable violence”. Our bodies, much like our indigenous lands, become the rapeable, the malleable, the beatable, the dispensable.
When we are “not humans” and invisible, what does it matter to the government and the rest of the population when our women disappear.
Well guess what?
I AM NOT YOUR SQUAW, AND I DAMN SURE AIN’T YOUR POCAHONTAS.
There are so many dimensions to the indigenous women I know. I know professors, lawyers, business owners, mothers, healers, community workers, grandmothers, artists, dancers, singers, poets. We laugh, we cry, we dream, we advocate, we love, and we envision change.
I’ve never seen a squaw in my life… have you?