In the hopes of righting a historical wrong while honoring the first American servicewoman killed in Iraq, Squaw Peak in Arizona– named for the derogatory term for Native American woman– will now be called Piestewa Peak, after Private Lori Piestewa.
Piestewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe from Arizona, also was the first Native American servicewoman ever to be killed in the line of duty, according to the Associated Press. “I’m wondering if during her short life Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa was ever referred to as a squaw.” It will never happen now. She has earned that much. Not just for herself, but for every woman like her,” wrote Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini.
Despite charges of political posturing by Republicans, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano pushed for the mountain name change and encouraged the State Board on Geographic and Historic Names to waive its five-year waiting period. In a 5-1 vote yesterday, the board also recommended that Squaw Peak Freeway be renamed Lori Piestewa Freeway– the State Board of Transportation could approve that change by the end of May.
Piestewa, 23, was a single mother raising a 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. She was among the members of the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company, attacked March 23 when it made a wrong turn near Nasiriyah. Piestewa’s remains were recovered along with the bodies of seven other members of the 507th Company when Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital. Lynch and Piestewa were good friends and roommates, according to the AP.
Piestewa was one of 12,800 Native Americans and 56 Hopis serving in the US military– it is unknown how many of those are women. Information on female Native American servicewomen is scarce, Brenda Finnicum, a retired career Army nurse and member of the Lumbee tribe who has spent the past five years trying to gather data on Native American women veterans, told the AP. “The men bring their military home with them and the women don’t,” Finnicum said. “Indian women are what I call the invisible warrior. You don’t see them.”
LEARN MORE: Women in Military Service for America Memorial