PHOENIX - The City of Phoenix is officially changing two controversial street names.
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 new street names will go into effect on March 1, 2021.
In June, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted about starting the process to change the street names. Both Mayor Gallego and Councilwoman Thelda Williams initiated the process on June 18. In July, the city council unanimously voted to begin the process to change the names, and in a nine-to-zero vote on Sept. 16, the council approved the renaming of Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street.
The word "squaw" is a demeaning word for a Native American woman, and other alternatives to the street are Peak Drive and Piestewa Peak Drive.
Robert E. Lee was a confederate general "who represents historical institutions of racism and slavery." Instead of glorifying the general and confederacy, other names suggested were Freedom Street or Justice Street.
"I feel nothing but anger when I see emblems romanticizing a time my recent ancestors were treated worse than horses," said one person who voiced an opinion during the city council meeting.
Residents react to change
Some residents are left furious with the change.
"I'm mad as hell this whole thing was pushed into the throats of the residents," said Rick Klawitter.
Klawitter says he is not opposed to the reason behind a new name, but the changes he will have to make.
"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," said Klawitter.
Councilman Carlos Garcia says the name changes will be tough for some, but he hopes everyone "shows the same grace as we continue to push policy changes for black lives."
Robert E. Lee and Squaw Peak Drive Renaming Process