Nearly 20 Arizona House Democrats penned a letter last month urging the new owner of the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix to change its offensive name.
The term “squaw” is a slur for Native American women that is sexist and racist. The letter connects the name of the hotel to the ongoing problem of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
The lead signatories of the letter are Navajo Reps. Arlando Teller and Myron Tsosie, both Chinle Democrats.
“The indigenous community believes the continued usage of ‘squaw’ has a correlation to the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” the letter said. “The resort’s current name continues to do real damage to Indigenous Nations of Arizona and the United States.”
Change for the better! pic.twitter.com/2QGdctrRyW
— Rep. Arlando Teller (@ArlandoTeller) August 30, 2019
The letter was also signed by: Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale; Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley; Rep. Andres Cano, D-Tucson; Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma; Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson; Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Green Valley; Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler; Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley; Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix; Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe; Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler; Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe; Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix; Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Cashion; and Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix.
Teller, the letter’s primary author, could not be reached for comment. Terán told Arizona Mirror the name change is long overdue.
“Mr. Teller and some of us from the caucus wanted to make sure we have a meeting to address this problem head on,” she said.
Terán said the hotel’s name has been a known issue for years, but the impetus for last month’s letter was a Labor Day conference held there.
The Arizona AFL-CIO hosted a breakfast at the hotel on Aug. 30 in celebration of Labor Day. AFL-CIO is one of the nation’s largest union federations, representing roughly 12.5 million members and 55 unions. The breakfast was well attended by Arizona Democrats and labor organizers, and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Mark Kelly gave a speech.
“The hope is that this will get done with the new management,” Terán said.
In February, Fortress Investment Group bought the property. Fortress was itself purchased in January for $3.3 billion by SoftBank Group Corporation, a Japanese multinational conglomerate. Neither Fortress Investment Group nor the Hilton hotel chain have said the hotel’s name will change.
Management at the Pointe Hilton could not be reached for comment.
For decades, the property shared its offensive name with the mountain that towers above it. The mountain was renamed Piestewa Peak by the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names in 2003 – and federally renamed in 2008 – to honor Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, a Hopi woman who in 2003 became the first Native American woman to die in the Iraq War.
“The surrounding mountain preserve, freeway and other nearby properties, beginning in 2003, have changed their name to ‘Piestewa Peak,’” the letter said. “We respectfully request that you change the name of this resort and suggest that you continue the trend of honoring U.S. Army Spc. Lori Piestewa.”