After months of deliberation, Squaw Valley Resort has decided to permanently change its name to remove the word “squaw,” which is widely considered to be a derogatory term for a Native American woman. A new name for the popular ski resort near Lake Tahoe which held the 1960 Olympics has not yet been determined, but will most likely be implemented in 2021.
“Today is a difficult but exciting day in the long and storied history of Squaw Valley,” wrote Squaw Valley President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Cohen in an email. “The concerns about our name have been long discussed, but as we all find ourselves in a time of increased awareness and righteous demands for accountability, our leadership team has concluded we must move from discussion to action.”
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.
The word has been successfully erased from other areas of NorCal in the recent decade. In 2011, the California Office of Historic Preservation renamed “Squaw Rock” on Highway 1010 near the Sonoma-Mendocino county line to Frog Woman Rock. In 2018, Sierra Nevada peak “Squaw Ridge” was renamed Hungalelti Ridge in coordination with the nearby Washoe tribe.
“It can be jarring to face the stark ugliness that is embodied by the same word that names a place so magnificently beautiful, a place so many of us hold dear,” said Cohen. “By taking this action, we confront and acknowledge the hard truths, and we recognize that our love of this place and our cherished memories do not justify continuing to use such a divisive and hurtful word. Today we do our part to help retire this word to its place in history books.”
The ski resort is far from the only business to use the word in the the north Tahoe area near Truckee dubbed “Squaw Valley.” In fact, most businesses and organizations in the historic Olympic Village use the word, and the ski resort could set off a domino effect of name changes throughout Tahoe with its name-change announcement.