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Debate over ‘Squaw Peak Drive' rages on years after peak renamed

Of the 21 houses lining the street, 16 property owners have signed a petition asking Stanton not to move forward with the change.

PHOENIX - It's a scenic north Phoenix street with what some would call a notorious name.

"We see it more as a historic part of Phoenix," said Ambrose Rojas.

Rojas is part of a group of neighbors fighting to keep Squaw Peak Drive – exactly that.

They are pushing back against Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's proposal to change the street’s name. The change is being proposed because it contains what some people consider a derogatory term for Native American women.

"I don’t think anybody thinks of it that way," Rojas said, "and I certainly don't want to cause anybody undo stress for a name. But there's an impact and cost and who pays for that."

The street, which begins at the intersection of Lincoln Drive, is the road leading up to Piestewa Peak, which was formerly Squaw Peak.

When the state renamed the summit in 2003 to honor Lori Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die in combat, the street wasn’t part of the change.

"Why continue to hold on to these historically derogatory terms," said Amanda Blackhorse.

Blackhorse, who lives in Phoenix, is an activist supporting indigenous people and issues affecting them.

Outcry over its derogatory meaning was part of the push to rename the peak and its popular hiking trails.

"The 'S' word is a derogatory term for indigenous women, period," Blackhorse told 12 News.

"If something is wrong, it needs to change," she said. "It's as simple as that."

Of the 21 houses lining the street, 16 property owners have signed a petition asking Stanton not to move forward with the change.

Homeowners say they're concerned about what could be expenses as high as several thousand dollars to change all their legal documents and deeds.

Despite the backlash, Stanton said he plans to move forward in a statement to 12 News.

"The current street name is derogatory and offensive to many, especially Native Americans. Per my request, staff is looking to change it in a manner that's least inconvenient to people living near Piestewa Peak," said Stanton.

Blackhorse says it’s time to put racially insensitive terms in our past and keep them there.

“If you had the ‘N’ word up there would you want to keep that?” she said.

Still, Rojas can’t help but feel like the name change is simply a political ploy that homeowners will end up paying for.

"If the government wants to come in and change the name that’s fine, but they should also take the responsibility of absorbing the cost and impact," he said.

We spoke off camera with one of the homeowners on Squaw Peak Drive who is in favor of changing the name.

She said her feelings weren’t about it being a derogatory term. Instead, she wants to show support for Lori Piestewa.

She felt the street should have been renamed at the same time the peak was and believes it’s disrespectful to Piestewa and her family.

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