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Squaw Valley Ski Area to Change ‘Racist and Sexist’ Name

The California ski resort is to drop the ‘derogatory and offensive’ name following extensive research and consultation with Native American Groups.

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Work on a new name is to begin immediately.  The result will be announced in early 2021, with the change made after the next winter season.

In a message on its website the resort says is undeniable that the word “squaw” is “widely considered a racist and sexist slur”.

It is an offensive term used to describe Native American women.

The resort, which is linked to Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe area, announced a review of the name in July soon after the Washington Redskins American football team said it was changing its name and logo.

Regional California tribes have asked for the Squaw Valley name to be dropped many times over the years with no success.

“With the momentum of recognition and accountability we are seeing around the country, we have reached the conclusion that now is the right time to acknowledge a change needs to happen,” said Ron Cohen, President and Chief Operating Office of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

“While we love our local history and the memories we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term ‘squaw’ is offensive.

“We have to accept that as much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, that love does not justify continuing to use a term that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur.

“We will find a new name that reflects our core values, storied past, and respect for all those who have enjoyed this land.

“While the resort name will change, this special place will always be the location of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the home of our beloved KT-22 chair lift, the place where extreme skiing pioneers changed the sport forever, and the beloved mountain home for so many people who revere this amazing ski resort.”

The resort says it has carried out extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” both generally and specifically with respect to Squaw Valley.

It has consulted Native American groups – including the local Washoe Tribe – and the local and extended community.

Squaw Valley lift

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California

The company’s leadership decided the name had to be changed as its racist and sexist connotations were contrary to the company’s core values.

The area has had its name since 1949 but the term “squaw” has been the subject of extensive research and discussion over the years.

“There is now insurmountable evidence, dating back to the early 1800s, that the word “squaw” has long been used as a derogatory and dehumanizing reference to a Native American woman,” the resort website says.

The local Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral homeland includes the ski resort, has been pressuring for it to change its name.

Dozens of place names across North America that used the term have removed it in the past 25 years, following successful campaigns.

In 1995, Minnesota made it illegal to have “squaw” in a place name; six more states have since followed suit.

What will the new name be?

Some have suggested it should be called Olympic Valley to mark its Winter Olympic heritage.

Squaw Valley, California

Squaw Valley held the Olympics 60 years ago

A project team, headed by the resort leadership, will oversee the selection of a new name.

The name of the resort is everywhere, including on signs, vehicles, uniforms, name tags and drinking glasses.

The process of changing all that will be both extensive and expensive but has the support of the resort’s parent company, Alterra Mountain Company.

Squaw Valley merchandise - photo resort

The name is everywhere

Local independent businesses and associations that currently use the word “squaw” will not be forced to change their names but the resort says it hopes its actions will convince others to act too.

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