On Tuesday, the famed Lake Tahoe-area ski resort and the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley, announced that they will be changing their name next year due to the word “squaw” being deemed racially offensive.
The change from Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley Ski Resort officials said that “squaw”, an Algonquin word that meant “woman” but had the meaning become a derogatory slur against Native American women by the 1800’s, is both misogynist and racist. Local Native American groups had recently worked with resort officials over the usage of the word. Tribes had been asking for a name change for years but had not made any ground on the issue until earlier this year after nationwide efforts to remove racist and ethnically charged monuments and symbols began to succeed in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
“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 Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President and COO Ron Cohen on Tuesday in Olympic Valley. “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 considered offensive.
“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.”
A hard to change name due to the resort’s Olympic legacy
While the decision to change the name of the ski resort was widely applauded on Tuesday, some have warned that the name change will do little to truly get rid of the name.
“Squaw Valley was named and founded in the 1850’s after the first Americans came and saw only Native American women farming in the area,” explained French Olympic historian Bernard Marot to the Globe. “Then the resort itself was founded after the second World War. This is over 150 years of being on maps and mentioned in the news that will not go away.”
“But the big part is the Olympics. They set everything in stone. They will forever call it Squaw Valley because that’s what it was called back then. Incidents happen, like athletes cheating and some games carrying propaganda for the home country, and they record everything about it. Try as they might, internationally this is what they’ll still be known as for years, decades to come because that Olympic history is so locked in, not to mention other American and international ski events being held here through the years. Not to mention that any tourist going there will almost undoubtedly hear the original name when changed due to the Olympic connection.”
“The change is a great gesture to native people, but Squaw Valley is still too famous and will still be used due to the historical connection, at the very least in Olympic context.”
Squaw Valley’s name change is only the latest Native American change in California following several instances of changes and removals this summer, including the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue from the State Capitol rotunda in Sacramento.
Squaw Valley Resort officials are currently working on selecting a new name for the resort. A decision is expected next year, with a formal change expected after the end of the 2021 season.
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