Ski re­sort eyes name change

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS -

TAHOE CITY (AP) — Cal­i­for­nia’s pop­u­lar Squaw Val­ley Ski Re­sort is con­sid­er­ing chang­ing its name to re­move the word “squaw” — a deroga­tory term for Na­tive Amer­i­can women — amid a na­tional reck­on­ing over racial in­jus­tice and in­equal­ity.

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, said Vanessa Esquiv­ido, a pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can In­dian Stud­ies at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, Chico.

“That word is an ep­i­thet and a slur. It’s been a slur for a very long time,” she said.

When set­tlers ar­rived in the 1850s in the area where the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tain 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.

But now the term is con­sid­ered deroga­tory and even the Mer­riam-Web­ster dic­tio­nary de­fines the word as an of­fen­sive term for a Na­tive Amer­i­can woman.

The pos­si­ble re­nam­ing of Squaw Val­ley Ski Re­sort is one of 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.

On Mon­day, the Na­tional Football League’s Washington Red­skins an­nounced the team is drop­ping the “Red­skins” name and In­dian head logo.

Re­gional Cal­i­for­nia tribes have asked for the name of Squaw Val­ley Ski Re­sort — which re­ceived in­ter­na­tional name recog­ni­tion when it hosted the 1960 Win­ter Olympics — to be changed nu­mer­ous times over the years, with lit­tle suc­cess.

But the idea is gain­ing mo­men­tum.

Squaw Val­ley Pres­i­dent & CEO Ron Co­hen said the re­sort is cur­rently tak­ing in­ven­tory of all the places where the name ap­pears on and off the prop­erty, how much it would cost to change and what to pri­or­i­tize if the change moves ahead.

Re­mov­ing “squaw” from the re­sort name would be a lengthy and ex­pen­sive process, Co­hen said, as the name ap­pears on hun­dreds of signs and is im­printed on ev­ery­thing from uni­forms to ve­hi­cles.

Co­hen, who took over as head of the re­sort two years ago, said the op­er­a­tors are also meet­ing with share­hold­ers, in­clud­ing busi­ness and home­own­ers within the re­sort, as well as the lo­cal Washoe tribal lead­er­ship to get their in­put.

Co­hen said he could not give a time­line on when a de­ci­sion could be made.

Washoe Tribe Chair­man Ser­rell Smokey said the name Squaw Val­ley is a con­stant reminder of ef­forts to dis­par­age na­tive peo­ple.


The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the en­trance to the Squaw Val­ley Ski Re­sort in Olympic Val­ley, Calif., July 8. Cal­i­for­nia’s Squaw Val­ley Ski Re­sort is con­sid­er­ing chang­ing its name to re­move “squaw,” a deroga­tory term for Na­tive Amer­i­can women.

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