by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

squaw n. A North American Indian woman.

During 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.
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."

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