PHOENIX (AP) — The city of Phoenix has renamed two streets many consider offensive. One is because of its demeaning reference to Native American women and the other because of its glorification of the Confederacy.
Robert E. Lee Street will now become Desert Cactus Street and Squaw Peak Drive will change to Piestewa Peak Drive, in honor of fallen Native American soldier Lori Piestewa. Piestewa was a member of the Hopi tribe and was killed during an ambush in Iraq in 2003.
The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday approved both new names, which are scheduled to go into effect on March 1.
Mayor Kate Gallego and Councilwoman Thelda Williams initiated the process to change the street names in June.
Robert E. Lee Street is named after the Confederate general who led the uprising against the United States in the Civil War. “Squaw” is a slur historically used to describe Native American women.
“We are looking forward to having street names that reflect our values. We don’t want shadows of the confederacy, or for a young girl, like the daughters we talked about here today, to see that street name as they drive to school or about in our community,” Gallego said.
But some residents do not agree with the decision, arguing that it will require a host of changes for residents and business owners on each of the streets.
“I’m mad as hell this whole thing was pushed into the throats of the residents,” Rick Klawitter said. “There are so many places that addresses exist, that our addresses are part of our records. Online shopping, banking, all the city services, but it doesn’t matter. They don’t care about that."
Councilman Carlos Garcia has acknowledged the change will be difficult for some, but hopes everyone “shows the same grace as we continue to push policy changes for Black lives.”