Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Legislators and Las Cruces residents are arguing over the decision to rename the street a state-approved slur

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Las Cruces lawmakers want to push ahead with changing the name of a street of federally recognized libel, but several residents say they want the street name unchanged.

“I came across the street name and was frankly stunned,” said councilor Johana Bencomo, who does not represent the neighborhood but is leading efforts to change the street name.

“I like the name Squaw Mountain and it’s not derogatory to me,” says Jerry Ogledzinski, who has lived on the streets for 27 years. “What’s next with these new activists?”

Ogledzinski and at least 19 neighbors signed a petition stating that the name of the street should stay the same. Squaw Mountain Drive is east of Las Cruces, south of Lohman Avenue and west of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.

Typically, Las Cruces will consider changing the name of a street if 75% of residents agree to the change, the city said.

“Technically, I think the city could work around this, but I think it would be ill-advised and unwise to do so,” said Mayor Ken Miyagishima. “It is really what the residents want and not necessarily what the city council wants.”

“People will find things offensive all the time,” said Karen Dixon, who has lived on Squaw Dixon Drive for eight years. “

“There is no opinion on whether that word is an arc or not,” said Bencomo. “It’s an arch and shouldn’t be on a street name.”

“It’s very humiliating for women,” said councilor Yvonne Flores, who represents the neighborhood.

The word “squaw” means “an indigenous woman from North America”, according to Merriam-Webster. The dictionary also defines it as an offensive term to the Native American people.

A month ago US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland declared the word “squaw” derogatory. Haaland, a former New Mexico congressman, is from Laguna Pueblo near Albuquerque.

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