The word Squaw comes from the eastern Indian term that means "woman", and has been seen in many Algonquian dialects. Some spellings of the word are squa, skew, and kwa, depending on the area of origin. Between the 1600s and 1800s, the word squaw was used by Euro-American settlers to describe the women of American-Indian descent. It was used as a generic term to describe all women. At the time of its origin, the term Squaw was simply a word to define that specific race of woman, and had no sexual or derogatory meaning behind it.
Squaw Peak Controversy over the word
Your Dictionary Squaw definitions, uses, synonyms of the word
Only since the late 20th century has the term squaw taken on derogatory meaning. Depending on the area and usage, the term may have sexual meaning, as well. One particular author used the word squaw to describe women who were ragged, wretched and pig-eyed. Some claim that the word squaw is related to the word for vagina. Still another usage of the term refers to a derogatory comment against men, such as squaw man. Calling someone a squaw man may mean a couple of things- one being an Indian who is in the habit of doing a woman's work. It may also refer to a white man that has married an Indian woman, and is now living amongst them. Whatever the case, the term Squaw may mean more than just an American-Indian woman.
Native Web Reclaiming the name Squaw
Squaw Stories Information on the word squaw
While the word squaw started out as a non-offensive, generic term, many of Native Americans now take offense to its usage, feeling that it demeans their women. Some feel that it is similar to certain racial epithets, such as the word Negress, to describe a woman of African-American descent, or Jewess, describing a woman of Jewish descent. Many feel that the word itself simply demoralizes a woman, and that it should not be used in any context.