Squaw Rock Becomes Frog Woman Rock

Kym Kemp / Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 @ 9:45 p.m. / Mendocino ,  News

An Early View of the trail that became Hwy 101 passing Squaw Rock

Normally, I’d be all curmudgeonly about a landmark being renamed but this year’s renaming of Squaw Rock to something more politically correct and more closely tied to the original Pomo name rather charms me.  Unless someone derails the change, the place shall now be know as Frog Woman Rock.

I suppose this means the historical landmark legend will have to be changed? Currently it reads (according to Ernie Branscomb):

This early landmark, also called Lover’s Leap, is associated with the purported legend of a 19th-century Sanel Indian maiden, Sotuka. Her faithless lover, Chief Cachow, married another, all three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice upon the sleeping pair below.” (In this post here, I look at the earliest documented version. A young white schoolgirl wrote down the tale supposedly told by her Native American servant.)

The proposed change document recounts the search to find a more authentic name.

John Hudson was a medical doctor and ethnologist living in Mendocino County in the late 1800s. A vast amount of primary information concerning Pomo tribes are recorded in various journals, notebooks, sketches, paintings, photographs, maps, recordings, and collections of the Hudson family. The following extract is taken from John Hudson’s unpublished Pomo Linguistic Manuscript. The Pomo words identified in the Hudson notebook appear to be in the Northern Pomo language. The orthology (the spellings of the words) is as it appears in Hudson’s notebook….

Ka-lo’ko-ko. Small flat opposite Squaw Rock. Trail to the west of the rock. The rock is avoided because of Bi-tsin’ ma-ca living there.

Bi-tsin’ ma-ca Ka-be’. (frog woman cliff) Squaw rock. A bold headland near Pieta. Bi-tsin’ ma-ca (frog woman) syn. (Ba-tak’ ma’ca) The white woman of beautiful face but body of a frog. Could jump a hundred feet and snatch a man who after administering to her pleasures was devoured. She had a den in the face of Squaw Rock.’

Now talk about an interesting legend…A white woman with a beautiful face but a squat ugly body lived in a tall cliff. She could jump 100 feet and would drag Native American men off to administer “to her pleasures.”  Then, like a black widow, she would devour them.  This story had the local tribes nervous enough supposedly that they beat a trail to the west of her home in order to avoid her clutches.

(My son pointed out that I would not be as enchanted with this story if it involved raping women. Apparently, I’m not politically correct enough… sigh, every generation’s behavior is viewed with disgust by the next generation.)


Photo of Squaw Rock from a wonderful site on Healdsburg history.

And thanks to the Press Democrat and @OnlyInMendocino for the tip.

Related tags: each-generation-has-its-own-morality, frog-woman-rock, mendocino-history, squaw-rock


  • Really? For a woman who pulled into a parking lot to talk on her cell phone then stumped her caller by saying she was at “Kash Market uhhhhh you know, Napa!” No he didn’t know. Who had trouble with the switch from Mendes to Murrishes & now refuses to even try and call it whatever that new price gouging company named it. As adorable as the tale of rape and murder is, the rock that meant we were headed to “The City” will always be “Squaw Rock” to me.
  • I just call her Mama, and consider her a guardian. She’s the gateway. When I drive south and pass her, I’ve left home. I always reach out and tie myself to her with a heartstring so I know I’ll make it back. When I drive north, seeing her means I’m in the homestretch.

    So sad the four-lane makes us rush by more quickly. It was fun to stop and watch the creek. She doesn’t approve of the four-lane, as evidence by the constant tussle CalTrans has with geology there.
  • SoHum Born,
    I have the same problem (What is the name of the grocery store in Redway anyway? I once told an out of town visitor that I would meet them at Murrishes only to have them unable to find the place…How odd! Shouldn’t out of town visitors know that the sign up for the last 10 years doesn’t reflect the true name? I think they were a wee bit grumpy with me. And I was a bit annoyed with them for making me wait and not reading my mind;>)

    She does seem like the last bastion of the North Coast, doesn’t she? When I pass her headed north I know the traffic patterns, I know the way the land will react, I know the weather. I’m not quite home but I’ve passed an important milestone.
  • When I tell out of towners, I say its’ old name is Murrish’s, I don’t remember its new name because I don’t like corporate names, and it’s across the street from Signature Coffee. SC is more likely to stay the same.
  • Always will be a milestone of 101 no matter what its called.
  • In response to Karen Lawson
    Good idea, I’ll use Signature as the landmark next time.
  • The S word has become the current problem for the folks who certify place names. The previous problem was the N word of which we had a couple in SoHum. Gone now, thank heaven or Jah or whatever.
    The First People in Indian stories were said to be white. as is the frog woman in the rock. When whites first appeared, they were taken for Spirit People. The Indians soon learned otherwise.
  • One time I was getting directions from someone’s grandpa and he told me to drive north until I got to where the old Davis barn used to be and turn left.
    Our memories and the history of the places we love are so present in our minds. That big ole rock above the river there activates memories of family travels as a child before cars had air conditioning. My father told me the story with both the young woman and her lover jumping. But my father was never one who would speak of frog sex.
  • In response to timmy
    It is striking and majestic. I love it and now I have one more legend to tell my children when we pass.
  • In response to Goldie
    Let alone forced frog sex!
  • In response to Ben Schill
    Thanks Ben, By the way, I wanted to send you a link to a facebook site I think you and a few of the folks who like local history would enjoy. You don’t have to be a facebook member to read it though I think you do have to be a member to comment.. Here.
  • A landscape shaped by fire can be seen in this picture. Fire removed from our land and the fir forests invade and the big oak orchards are swallowed up. Fire as a tool used by people is very evident in this wonderful picture. Old photos hold so much information. Kind of like old photos of Svenson’s Ridge (or just getting older and watching the same meadow disappear over time), in Lower Salmon Creek, now a meadow turning into brush, hardwoods, fir forest; and open meadowland, forbes, grasses, summertime stream flows, salmon and salamanders so dependent on fire are lost with the removal of fire as a tool from the peoples toolbox. As new settlers arrive attitudes surrounding fire change over time. Our latest fire symposium this year provided insight to me and others (held at Panamnik) fires used to be set by the people to call the salmon back home. Fire produces water, when properly applied to the landscape. With water we get salmon. Coho salmon in our watersheds are dependent on water for over-summering and without fire we will loose more water and in the end maybe the Coho. The connections of all life to fire was well known, not too long ago, in our “neck of the woods” (or harkening back on an earlier era, “neck of the meadows”). That knowledge still lives on in Panamnik. I was fortunate to be able to share in that knowledge at Panamnik.
  • For anyone who is not sure why the word “squaw” has become so controversial, you might want to check out this link:


    It seems that there is little evidence to support the now-oft-repeated claim that the word “squaw” comes from a Mohawk word meaning “vagina.” Apparently the English-language word “squaw” can be traced to a proto-Algonquin word that simply meant “woman.”

    But the popular belief that the word “squaw” was based on a word for “vagina” got a big boost when Native American activist Susan Harjo made that claim in 1992 to Oprah Winfrey’s audience of tens of millions. Since then, I’ve heard a number of friends and aquaintances claim that the word “squaw” not only came from a Native American word for female genetalia, but that in fact that word equated to the English-language obscenity “c-nt.” However, I haven’t seem any evidence for that, or seen that claim made by any authority on the Algonquin language.

    However, at this point the popular belief is out there, and it’s probably too late to try to put the genie back in the bottle — and not really worth the effort, anyway, since there are other problems with using the word “squaw.”

    Aside from the “controversy” over whether the word had an “obscene” or sexually-degrading origin, there is no question that even before that particular controversy arose, the word was often used to refer to Native American women in a disparaging way. And then there’s the fact that it’s apparently a word (or similar to a word) used in Algonquin languages, but of course not all Indian tribes speak Algonquin languages, so some Native Americans don’t like the fact that it is used to describe various landmarks in non-Algonquin areas, as it reinforces the sense of conquest and disrespects the tribes and tribal languages that lived in these areas prior to the European invasion.

    And I can certainly respect that, so I really don’t see why it’s a problem to go ahead and rename these landmarks to something that less offensive to Native Americans. Yeah, it’s too bad that the movement to re-name thse landmarks is partly based on some inaccurate beliefs about the word’s origin, but as a practical matter, the “original meaning” of a word is never as important as what most people think it’s meaning is .
  • “The white woman of beautiful face but body of a frog. Could jump a hundred feet and snatch a man who after administering to her pleasures was devoured.”

    Laugh if you will, but that was my first wife!
  • In response to tra
    “the “original meaning” of a word is never as important as what most people think it’s meaning is .”

    That’s some pretty sage advice. When a person gets as old as I am they have seen many changes in meanings. Some good some bad, eeny meeny miney moe. etc.

    A man once told me that all lables will eventually become derogitory. In example: Retarded, MR, LD, etc. At one time the Amercan Indian was not ashamed of their anatomy. A Vagina was no more important than a knee cap. The white man taught them shame. That seems to be true of any invasion. They bring the invaded humility and shame. It’s human nature. I was once proud to be a logger. I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but just saying…. One of the many changes that I have seen.
  • Frog Woman Rock?…..More P. C. bologna.
  • I’m glad we’ve replaced that name. Though there are ignorant rednecks who will continue to use it, at least its a small step in the right direction.
  • And perhaps someday we’ll stop using the term “redneck” as a perjorative, given its origin as a put-down of poor people who did manual labor outdoor in the sun, especially farmers and farm workers who had to stoop over their crops, exposing the backs of their necks to the sun, resulting in their “red necks.”

  • In response to tra
    Okay I’ll revise that to “ignorant people who will continue to use it”.
  • Very thoughtful comment Tra.

    Sadly your message didn’t get through.
  • Does everyone know the 19th-century usage “Squaw Man”? That’s what we called the Mountain Men who lived in the wilderness year-round, typically with one or more Indian women, and their boil of children. The squaw man was a trapper-trader feeding the gentlemen’s beaver hat trade in Paris—but it wasn’t obvious. His label wasn’t anatomical or pejorative—though shacking up with exotics wasn’t entirely comme il faut either. But it was hardly controversial where and when it was done.

    What changed was the population surrounding these few families: in India as on the American frontier, perfectly well-respected trading families became louche, declasse and other French epithets (and poor!) when our society’s race and class privileges flooded over lands that previously were infinitely more free and open, because fewer of us were on them.

    And I think that is the actual point in a lot of this renaming: we are editing/denying our own abiding not just racist but exclusive cultural biases, which the individuals who preceded us may have been a lot less into than we are. Indians in my experience are some of the least PC people I know.

    So, I’m okay with Squaw ____. I’m more bugged by Devil’s ____, the commonest rename we give to Indian sacred sites. And hey, the Devil is famously horny, so shouldn’t we edit out all those indigenous penises along with the vaginas?

    “You say vagina, I say yoni, let’s call the whole thing off.” Mama Rock’s still Squaw Rock to me, at least until I’ve had frog sex.

    Or logger sex, Ernie: I think you and I are reflecting down the same trail here.
  • In response to G.I.B.
    No Gib, it’s the people who continue to call it Squaw Rock who don’t get the message.
  • Bi-tsin’ ma-ca Ka-be’ is good name. The story makes it even better.

    Using the local Native name for a geographic site is always a good idea. Is our tendency to change an Indian name to a white one a form of unrecognized racism ?
    We use Hispanic words for places, and don’t change them to english as we regularly to with Indian names. Learn to speak the words spoken by the Natives. Respect.

    Perry Bowman, who mother was Wiyot, used to tell a story about a white man looking for the name of the yet unnamed Eel River and being told “Weott” by a Native. Instead, the whiteman used the translated Eel. Perry’s point was that why did the man even ask the Native man if he was going to use a white word all along.

    I have heard a strong rumor that the name Squaw Creek will be removed from the map in the Rockefeller Grove park as well.
    The adoption of the generic squaw for all Native women from coast to coast by the predominantly racist white society may have lost its pejorative sting over the decades in our white eyes, but imagine if we still called black males bucks as they were called during slavery times. Is it comparable?
    I like Metis for squawman

    Native names are best. Bear Gulch should have been given a Native name.
  • “Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical, liberal minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”
  • In response to G.I.B.
    That’s funny. It’s a Rush Limbaugh quote, right?
  • An hour after I went to bed last night I realized I had better correct the Metis comment this AM. I blew it, Metis is a word for half-breed. sorry.
  • In response to olmanriver
    It was French squawmen who created the Meti cultures (and children) of Quebec and most famously of the Red River of Saskatchewan and the Dakotas. They do indeed slur together.

    I don’t disagree with your sound feelings and research, so much as I learn from our language, how it evolves and what it says. I remember an interview Mary Anderson did 30 years ago in the paper with an old timer who merrily reminisced about her father and uncle going out on weekends when she was a girl “to hunt bucks and squaws.” Clearly, the words dehumanized the prey. But more pointedly, it was people and circumstances that dehumanized and killed.

    I think it’s worth knowing that the nursery rhyme used to go

    Eenie meeny miney moe,
    catch an N-word by the toe,
    if he hollers let him go,
    Eenie meeny miney moe.

    In my life we’ve had a succession of labels for, now, African-Americans—but polite language doesn’t prevent many of us from hating one for getting elected President. I don’t know, I guess I just feel that language is the least of our challenges, and a symptom of what must change. But I need to understand what the hate said and did before knowing how to change it. But in the last analysis I’ll call people whatever they want me to call them. To me, the legend of ‘Squaw Rock’ being about a ‘maiden Princess’ is a treat of linguistic garble for the ages to think about. But the ages don’t think that much anyway …
  • Thanks longwind. I was just expressing my feelings and opinions which are absolutely biased.
    I asked a mellow Native friend today if she was bothered by the word squaw, and she said not really, it is just a word that the whites gave Indian women because the whitemen never listened to Indians or their language. Her longer response was essentially a resigned “same old shite” from whites, no big deal.
  • In response to olmanriver
    I like that - if people could learn to pronounce it. Though I think it’ll be like Murrishes to those who have known it as Squaw Rock most of their lives.
    And I thought the name of that bridge should have been changed to “Escape from genocidal whites up Bear Creek (if that WAS it’s name) bridge’, myself.
    Sorry about you guys who married frog women - nah, I like frogs (never married one though).
  • In response to 2 cents
    It would be nice to get a phonetic pronunciation of the new name.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    How did I know a chep shot about a conservative would pop out? G.I.B.’s quote on P.C. rang true to me man. Google it and you’ll be suprised because there’s no Rush to be found. Now that’s delusional, not funny.
  • In response to Fed Up
    Well if it “rings true” to you, then it must be so.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Because you say so? I think not. It’s just your opinion.
  • In response to olmanriver
    Kawow Maata Kabe, Frog woman rock in Central pomo dialect spoken in Hopland.

    Shawn Padi
    Tribal Chairman Hopland Band of Pomo Indians
    Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Which is only slightly worse than people turning good names to bad, just so they can feel holier than thou.
  • In response to longwind
    Now, that’s perceptive!
  • Kinda like “collateral damage” used to justify murder these days. Language is interesting. Language is tribal. The language we are immersed in determines how we think. European language does not describe the place as experienced before Europeans came to (invaded?) the “New World”. We all think based on the language we speak. I therefore think in English, and have been brought up with the mythos that my ancestors brought with them when they came to (invaded) this continent by boat. I realize I am biased, my biases is based on my upbringing and culture.
  • In response to Ernie’s Place
    This has nothing to do with holiness. It has everything to do with helping to correct an unjust imbalance in our culture that is due to a lack of understanding and love. Sexists and racists who insist on clinging to what is seen by many Native Americans as a derogatory and demeaning term only perpetuate the ignorance and hatred.
  • In response to longwind
    One of my Indian friends, convinced me that I should continue to call hin an “Indian”. His explanation was that he was born and raised an “Indian”, he was happy with that, and he didn’t need no hippie name. So I guess that settles that.

    I asked another Indian friend of mine what I was supposed to call him, “Native American” or “Indian”. He crossed his arms and put on his best cigar store Indian pose and said “I am an Indigenous person to you white eye”.

    In a conversation with this same Indian friend he told he that “there are no more Indians, the white man turned us all into cowboys”.

    I should also say that, as long as I have know some of my Indain friends, what they were was never an issue. I think of them as friends and “Indian” is never brought up. I like it that way and I’m sure they do too. It’s only us White Eyes that obsese about it.
  • In response to Fed Up
    It’s not “just my opinion” that the genocide of the Indian tribes during the 16-1800s converged with the rape of thousands of Indian women. It’s a fact. The psychology, still in use in the armed services today, is that the enemy is less important than you. They’re just little brown people. No more than “animals”. Same idea that soldiers heard in Viet Nam, and hear in the mid-east today.

    The continuous use of demeaning and cruel terms like “squaw” serves to perpetuate that old bias which embraces the idea that whites are superior to Indians, and men superior to women. Or, if you like, “holier than thou”. Get it? And btw, none of those rapists were ever brought to justice. Many of them thrived and helped to form the roots from which the culture we inhabit today grew. Is it any surprise that fragments of the same prejudice still exist in our language and media? Not to mention the continuing use of the popular subservient submissive Indian maiden image staring at us from the freezer in Murishes.
  • In response to Shawn
    Thanks Shawn!
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    Great site Kym thanks, Ernie’s got to check it out!
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Not another distorted history lesson over Squaw Rock.. And you throw in Viet Nam and attack the military too. OMG. Your anti-American politics are showing again and you are clueless about the military. The enemy can and will will kill you. They are not less important until eliminated. Color is no issue. Didn;t see any of those brown people in Nam or red or yellow. Too many history lessons on BSNBC AOTM. It;s Sqaw Rock to Americans and that’s all that should matters.
  • In response to Fed Up
    Your posture of patriotism is just a cynical ploy to justify the continued use of racist misogynistic language.
  • In response to Shawn
    Thank you. I appreciate your help.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Nice leftist quote straight from Arianna Huffington or Bill Maher but way off base as usual. “Cynical ploy to justift the continued use of racist, misogynistic language”. Give us a break. This is humerous now. However you’re right.about one point. I am a patriot. and, by the way, my family is of local Indian ancestry and Squaw Rock doesn’t bother me or my family either. Why does this agitate you but not the Indians? Just wondering?
  • In response to Fed Up
    When you make your point over and over again and they still don’t get it you just have to accept the fact that some people are so narrow minded and closed off to your truths that it’s of no use wasting energy trying to talk to them any further —better to just let them wallow in their hatred and ignorance.


Want more civilized conversation? Choose Country Club.