When Henry Church carved Squaw Rock in 1885, he was a progressive thinker who believed the story of the American Indians needed to be told. Just over a century later, a new outcry against his work deemed it culturally insensitive, derogatory and anachronistic.
Next to the quietly-flowing Chagrin River and tucked inside of deep foliage, the Squaw Rock has been a well-known picnic area for 125 years. Carved by Church, a local blacksmith, the rock depicts an Indian woman, the four phases of the moon, a serpent and a few other images. In 1885 when he first created his work, he titled it “The Rape of the Indians by the White Man.” Clearly condemning American policy toward Indians, Church hoped to tell a story many were unable to tell.
Amidst a wave of modern-day name change, some have called for the rock and picnic area to be renamed from Squaw Rock. Although Squaw is rooted in an Algonquian word meaning young woman, it became a derogatory term over years of Indian oppression. Over the last two decades, 167 monuments and geological features using the term have changed their names, though another 750 still exist across the United States, including Squaw Rock.