Arizona Governor Wants to
Name Peak for Soldier

Associated Press
Apr. 12, 2003

PHOENIX - The governor is lobbying to rename one of Phoenix's prominent mountain peaks in honor of an American Indian woman killed in the war, and she is calling for the resignation of a state official who has threatened to block the plan.

The mountain is known as Squaw Peak, a controversial name that many American Indians find offensive and have been trying to change for years.

Gov. Janet Napolitano wants it renamed Piestewa peak, for Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a Hopi from Tuba City who was killed in Iraq last month with seven other members of her Fort Bliss, Texas-based 507th Maintenance Company.

"It makes a lot of sense and sets a good example," Napolitano said Friday. She also wants to rename the Squaw Peak Freeway after Piestewa.

Man-made features can be named even after the living, but state and federal policies on geographic titles say there must be a five-year waiting period after a person's death before the name can be used.

Tim J. Norton, chairman of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names, has said the board should not abandon the guidelines for Piestewa because renaming geographic features should not be an emotional issue.

"Wholesale name changes are an atrocity," Norton told The Arizona Republic in an article published Thursday. Even after the waiting period, he added, "I'm not sure that renaming something in Phoenix in honor of a woman who lived hundreds of miles away will meet our criteria."

Napolitano said the state board has the authority to waive the waiting period and there's no reason to wait once she submits the petition.

"That's why they're called exceptions, and Lori Piestewa was an exception," Napolitano said. "To say he would never do it and it would be an 'atrocity' ... indicated to me he was not prepared to carry out his duty."

Napolitano spokeswoman Kris Mayes said Norton, a Phoenix police officer, has refused to step down, but cannot be fired from the volunteer position he has held for 10 years. Napolitano reappointed him to a third term in January.

No phone number was listed for Norton, and messages seeking to contact him through the police department were not immediately returned Saturday.

The Hopi Tribe, in northeastern Arizona, and the Piestewa family support the effort to rename the mountain, tribal chairman Wayne Taylor said.

"This would be a positive, healing way to end this long debate about what is a derogatory word for Native Americans," Taylor said.

The names board has received 72 messages in support of the idea and 22 against it, said Gladys Ann Wells, a board member and director of the State Library Archives and Public Records. She said the governor is within her rights to ask for Norton's resignation.

"I've talked with other board members, and we feel it's tragic," Wells said. "The board would like to carry out the will of the public, but we also have rules that we have to follow."