Assemblymember Rivera: Bill Reflecting Name Change Helps Restore Dignity to Indigenous Communities

Assemblymember Jon Rivera announced legislation he sponsored (A08518) which matches the local name change of “Squaw Island” in Buffalo to “Unity Island" at the state level.

The Buffalo Common Council renamed the island in 2015 to remove the offensive term from public discourse. This bill directs the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to recognize Squaw Island, on the Niagara River, as Unity Island as well as redesignates Squaw Island, on Canandaigua Lake, as Skenoh Island.

“The origins of the word “squaw” can be traced back to the Algonquin language and has since been used as an ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly against Native American women. This name change serves as a step in the right direction toward restoring dignity and respect for Indigenous cultures. New York’s vibrant Native American community is an integral part of our state’s past, present and future.”

The Interior Department is also currently working to rename 660 federal sites that include this offensive slur in their title.