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Homeowners fight Phoenix mayor’s plan to change street name

PHOENIX — A majority of homeowners along a Phoenix street with a name that many people consider derogatory toward Native American women are pushing back against Mayor Greg Stanton’s plan to change the street name.

Sixteen of the 21 homeowners signed a petition that was presented to the City Council last month asking Stanton not to rename Squaw Peak Drive.

The street is at the base of a mountain that had its name changed from “Squaw Peak” to “Piestewa Peak” more than a decade ago in honor of American Indian soldier Lori Piestewa, who died in the Iraq war. Some say the street should also be named after Piestewa.

Stanton has spoken out in favor of changing the name and first asked city staff last fall to start the process.

“The current street name is derogatory and offensive to many, especially Native Americans,” Stanton said in a statement Friday. “Per my request, staff is looking to change it in a manner that’s least inconvenient to people living near Piestewa Peak.”

Stanton appears to be moving forward with the plan despite the residents’ petition.

Under city policy, doing away with Squaw Peak Drive would require 75 percent of property owners in the area to sign a petition in support of the effort. However, city councilors could vote to make a change without the homeowners’ support.

Glenda Strickland, who lives on the street, urged Councilman Sal DiCiccio in an email to stop Stanton’s plan.

“Ms. Piestewa has already been honored,” Strickland wrote. “The expense would be excessive and unnecessary in all ways.”

But to many others, the street name is a “constant reminder of the historical trauma” that indigenous people, especially women, have faced, said Phoenix resident Amanda Blackhorse.

She said members of the Native American community view the word as equivalent to expletives used to refer to women or racial minorities.

“We call it the ‘S-word,'” Blackhorse said. “That was used as a tool, as a weapon to make us less than human. You should never, ever refer to Native women that way.”

A spokeswoman for the city said it would cost Phoenix about $2,000 to change signage along the street.