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Tahoe Area Ski Resort Will Change its Name, Citing Derogatory Word

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A skier leaves for the day at Squaw Valley Ski Resort on March 14, 2020 in Olympic Valley, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

California’s popular Squaw Valley Ski Resort will change its name because the word “squaw” is a derogatory term for Native American women, officials announced Tuesday. The site was the scene of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The decision was reached after consulting with local Native American groups and extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” said Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant “woman,” but over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage indigenous women.

“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,” Cohen said.

Work to find a new name will start immediately and is expected to be announced next year, he said.

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When settlers arrived in the 1850s in the area where the Sierra Nevada resort is now located, they first saw only Native American women working in a meadow. The land near Lake Tahoe was believed to have been given the name Squaw Valley by those early settlers.

Regional California tribes have asked for the name of the resort to be changed numerous times over the years, with little success.

The renaming is not without precedent, as other sites in California have had the word “squaw” removed from their official names. Recently, in 2011, a California Historical Landmark along Highway 101 in Mendocino County known for over 100 years as Squaw Rock was renamed Frog Woman Rock.

In other states, calls to rename Squaw Mountain in Colorado and Squaw Peak Drive in Arizona have amplified in the past year.

The reconsiderations in naming are among many efforts across the nation to address colonialism and indigenous oppression, including the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus, a symbol to many of European colonization and the death of native people.

 

Gabe Meline added reporting to this story.

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