We’ve deliberated for more than a decade about whether Squaw Valley should change its name. Today, the right decision was made as the resort moved on from its past into a new era with the brand-new name Palisades Tahoe.
There’s going to be plenty of comment-section warriors explaining why we shouldn’t change the name. They’ll make arguments about how “you can’t erase history” and “I’ll always call it Squaw,” but the further we distance ourselves from the old name, the less we will remember it. And with the announcement, the management of the legendary ski resort will no longer have to answer why it boasts a racist name.
According to advocacy groups, the term “squaw” is equivalent to the “c-word” for Native American women. The term was used to describe indigenous women during America’s brutal campaign of slavery and slaughter of Native American tribes in the 1700’s and 1800’s. To some, the name represents a legacy of violence against Native Americans.
Sure, if you google the word “squaw” you’ll be able to find arguments about why it isn’t racist. There’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s from the Washoe Tribe, which has inhabited the area for much longer than any other people.
“The Washoe People have lived in the area for thousands of years; we have great reverence for our ancestors, history and lands,” said Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey. “We are very pleased with this decision; today is a day that many have worked towards for decades. The Washoe Tribal Council recognizes the significance of the name change and on behalf of the Washoe people expresses its great appreciation for this positive step forward.”
The resort’s management team leaned heavily on the tribe to consider its name change. In fact, many people believed the resort’s management would choose a name with Washoe heritage. In the end, the resort opted to honor the beautiful landscape of its mountain, one that will live on as one of the great ski areas on the planet. One of the definitions of the word “palisades” is “a line of high cliffs.” We couldn’t describe the mountain better. On top of that, the logo, a majestic eagle, pays tribute to the sacred Washoe symbol used to communicate with the heavens, the powerful bird that calls Tahoe home.
“While this may take some getting used to, our name change was an important initiative for our company and community,” said Dee Byrne, Palisades Tahoe President & COO. “At the end of the day, “squaw” is a hurtful word, and we are not hurtful people. We have a well-earned reputation as a progressive resort at the forefront of ski culture, and progress cannot happen without change.”
Going beyond the name change, Palisades Tahoe has begun building a partnership with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California to continue to give the tribe a platform to educate the public about their culture and the valleys’ origins as the ancestral land of the Washoe Tribe, and to ensure mountain accessibility for present and future Washoe generations. This summer, the resort launched the Washoe Cultural Tour series, which offers guests a view of the mountains through the eyes of the Washoe people.
Whether you like it or not, it was a smart business decision from the management team. They will no longer have to field questions about their name and can once again focus on their customers. At the same time, they began the healing process with Washoe Tribe. Time to hit the Palisades.