The famed Lake Tahoe-area ski resort and the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley, announced on Tuesday that it is changing its name to Palisades Tahoe after just over a year of deliberations.
Local Native American tribes have been working for ears to rename the famed resort. While “squaw” is an Algonquin word that means “woman,” it has been used as a derogatory slur against Native American women since the 1800’s and has been called both misogynist and racist.
While some changes have happened in recent years, such as many areas like the post office changing their name to “Olympic Valley” and many other locations across the United States removing or changing the name, Squaw Valley had been a more difficult case because of it’s historic and Olympic associations, as well as trademarks around the name. However, the George Floyd protests last year rapidly changed the minds of many and the resort finally approved a name change.
“More than one year ago, we came to the conclusion that it was time to change our name,” said the new Palisades Tahoe on their website on Tuesday. “The reasons were clear—the old name was derogatory and offensive. It did not stand for who we are or what we represent. And we could not in good conscience continue to use it. So we began a long and difficult process.”
“We spoke extensively to the local community, heavily researched local history, and went through countless rounds of creative exploration. We dug hard and deep to find a name and identity that would do justice to this place and its legacy.”
‘We are very proud of our resort’s new name. It encompasses both of our mountains, captures the individuality of our people, and welcomes all guests to take part in our new chapter.”
A new name in Lake Tahoe
In a statement, Palisades Tahoe President and COO Dee Byrne also said “While this may take some getting used to, our name change was an important initiative for our company and community. At the end of the day, ‘squaw’ is a hurtful word, and we are not hurtful people.”
Native American tribes around Lake Tahoe approved of the decision as well.
“The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the Native people, of the Washoe people,” noted Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office representative Darrel Cruz. “It’s a constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It’s a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else and we don’t agree with it.”
Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey added in a statement that “The Washoe People have lived in the area for thousands of years. We are very pleased with this decision; today is a day that many have worked towards for decades.”
“It’s a positive step forward. There’s been a lot of progress but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We need to continue to capitalize on that progress and continue to push forward.”
Locals in and around the now name-changed Squaw Valley had a more mixed reaction on Tuesday and Wednesday. While some wanted to keep the name due to its historical origins and ties with the Olympics, others agreed with the resorts and tribes of the need for the change. Many more fell in somewhere in between.
“Part of me is going to miss the old name,” noted longtime area resident Charles Carter, who worked as a car attendant during the 1960 Olympics and has seen the area grow with the number of resorts over the years, to the Globe on Wednesday. “But, if you ask anyone here, the name doesn’t matter so much as these mountains. Are they taking away skiing? Are they getting rid of the hotels? Is this hurting the economy? Will the new name tear down a bunch of trees? It’s not, so a lot of people are ok with it there.”
“It’s been a big issue here, but if a lot of people, especially those that the name covers, says it’s offensive and hurts them, I guess it’s time for a change. Place names change all the time anyway.”
While Squaw Valley will still be referred to such in historical context, both the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts will now be Palisades Tahoe. Within the area, Olympic Valley will be used largely to discuss the areas past.
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