a World Series, not long ago, one of the teams, having a name adopted from
a Native American term for male warriors, received encouragement from their
fans waving foam-rubber tomahawks. It was the nineties, so of course
there were protests.
squaw n. A North American Indian woman.
The word "brave" has sordid roots in Latin expressions
meaning wild and savage. But along the way -- via Spanish and Italian,
French and English -- "brave" came to denote courage and valiance.
Until marriage, presumably (a "brave" becomes a "sannup" married to a "squaw").
Dictionaries give "squaw" a Proto-Algonquian origin, although
disclaimered (unattested). Recently, someone treated me to a piece
of information: That the word "squaw" is a pale-face coinage. Resented,
naturally. If so, that would seem to mandate the renaming of "Squaw
Valley" and "Squaw Mountain." I can live without "squaw bread," but
I will regret the loss of the world class pun set forth below...
You may have heard about the Native American
tribe having the custom of appropriating for each unborn child attributes
of a chosen animal by wrapping the expectant mother in its pelt.
Three women, all great with child, aspired to mothering the next chief.
One wore the fur of a mountain lion, and her son became an exceptional
hunter. The second invoked the powers of buffalo leather, and her
son became strong and steadfast. The third had acquired a hippopotamus
hide from a traveling trader -- a most unusual garment in the Old West
-- and her daughter grew up to be a ferocious fighter. Which one
was chosen to lead the tribe?
The girl, of course, and by the Theorem of Pythagorus:
"The squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the
other two hides."