Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Photo credit: Rennett Stowe

Squaw Valley Will Change ‘Derogatory and Offensive’ Name

Officials of the popular California ski resort said they will announce a new name in early 2021.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, one of America’s largest ski destinations and host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, will adopt a new name in 2021 to remediate the “racist and sexist” history of the term.

In a statement this week, Ron Cohen, the resort’s chief operating officer, explained the decision to drop the word “squaw”:

“After extensive historical research, consultation with Native Americans (including the Washoe tribe, who are landowners in our community), and outreach to our local and wider community, our leadership has made the firm decision that it is time for our resort to move away from having our identity represented by a term that is deeply rooted in an offensive, demeaning and often violent history. The simple fact is that the word ‘squaw’ is now widely accepted as a racial and sexist slur towards indigenous women, and we can no longer ignore the pain caused by perpetuating the use of this term, regardless of intent.”

Cohen also noted that the resort’s founders “had no intentions of causing offense” when it first opened in 1949. He also acknowledged that changing the name will require time to both select and implement. So the resort will not implement any new title until next summer, following an announcement of the selection in early 2021.

Squaw Valley Name Change

In making the announcement, officials for the resort pointed to the current social climate, noting the “momentum of recognition and accountability” occurring around the country.

Still, the resort said it has been considering the name change for years and acknowledged abolishing the word from official use is not new. It cited the U.S. Forest Service, which officially recognized the term as offensive, and the seven states — led by Minnesota in 1995 — that have made the word illegal to use in place names.

Officials also referenced several dictionaries (including The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster) as well as numerous media entities (including the Associated Press, LA Times, and Powder Magazine) that all cite it as a derogatory term.

The resort also reached out to the Washoe Tribe of the Olympic Valley for counsel. Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office affirmed the name should be changed.

“The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the Native people, of the Washoe people. 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,” Cruz said.

Resort leadership has assembled a “renaming project team” to investigate a new name. While the ski area will drop the term “squaw,” it remains unclear whether any surrounding businesses will follow suit.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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