Almost a year ago Squaw Valley ski resort in Lake Tahoe, CA, committed to changing their name because the word “Squaw” is considered a racial & sexist slur against Native Americans.
“After extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” both generally and specifically with respect to Squaw Valley, outreach to Native American groups, including the local Washoe Tribe, and outreach to the local and extended community, company leadership has decided it is time to drop the derogatory and offensive term “squaw” from the destination’s name.”
– Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, CA on 8/25/20
Earlier this week, the resort offered an update as to the progress of this massive undertaking:
With the ski and ride season wrapped up and summer in full swing, a big change is on the horizon for our resort. We announced last August that we would be changing our name following winter operations, and we are ready to share an update on where we are in that process. At this time, we expect to announce and implement our new name in early fall.
We know that our resort community, both near and far, have been patiently awaiting the announcement of our new name. And while we are not yet prepared to unveil it, we want to detail what has been going on behind the scenes for the past eleven months, so our community can understand the immense effort that our team at S**** Alpine has been putting into this project.
One of the most important parts of this process to us was community involvement. It’s no secret our resort has die-hard, passionate fans. These mountains have been a home to so many, it’s no wonder tens of thousands of people feel a piece of ownership and protectiveness over them. We recognize the strong bond our community far and wide has with this resort, and we wanted to make sure we were considering the opinions of our most fervent champions (and critics) in this decision.
Ensuring the level of community involvement we knew would be crucial to this process has been a time-consuming endeavor. Despite what some might assume, this conversation hasn’t been happening behind closed doors in the offices of resort leadership. It’s been happening with the people who know this place the best. We held small group discussions with about 20 select members of our resort community. We issued surveys to 3,000 previous visitors, pass holders and employees. We did one-on-one interviews with prominent members of the Olympic Valley community. We began to build a relationship with the Washoe Tribe. These discussions with current and past employees, longtime Valley residents, die-hard skiers and riders, professional athletes and regional visitors helped us to analyze what it is about these mountains that sets them apart and keeps people coming back, and how we might best reflect that identity and emotion in a new name.
Then, an experienced branding agency took all that research, distilled out the most powerful and significant themes of this resort, and came up with a long list of potential names, some progressive and some more conventional. After multiple rounds of feedback, both internally and with the community working group, we whittled that list down to a few final options. We are in the final stages of confirming the name, which will be followed by the creation of our new logo. Following that, we will announce the name to the public, and begin work on changing over the resort to the new name and logo.
Though we’re not quite ready to share our new name, in the meantime we have been making progress building a new relationship with the Washoe Tribe, and working to make them feel welcome in the Valley that was once part of their ancestral home. This month we will host the first of our Washoe Cultural Tours, led by Washoe representative Darrel Cruz, which will be the first collaborative event of many to come as we embark on this new partnership.
And while the best we can leave you with today is to stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks, one thing remains certain: the memories and lasting impact of this place will always remain, but we will forge forward with a new name, one that captures the spirit of these legendary mountains, and doesn’t disparage our neighbors along the way.
For more information on this decision, as well as the history surrounding the word “squaw,” please visit: https://squawalpine.com/squaw-valley-alpine-meadows-name-change.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you changing the name?
After extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” it is undeniable that the word is now widely considered a racist and sexist slur. This is contrary to our company’s core values.
Why is the word “squaw” considered offensive?
We recognize that when the resort was named in 1949, there was no intent whatsoever to be derogatory or offensive—it was just a reference to the name of the valley. Similarly, when our guests and community members say the name today, they are not doing so with an intention to be racist or sexist. However, the reality is the times change, societal norms evolve, and we learn things we didn’t previously know. Over the years, more and more has been learned about the word “squaw.” It has been the subject of extensive research and discussion. There is now insurmountable evidence, dating back to the early 1800s, that the word “squaw” has long been used as a derogatory and dehumanizing reference to a Native American woman.
Over recent years, the growing recognition of the full history of the word has resulted in all major dictionaries recognizing it as derogatory and/or offensive. This recognition has in turn kicked off calls for changes of placenames containing “squaw” across North America. In the last 25 years, there have been dozens of successful efforts to remove the name “squaw” from locations. In 1995, Minnesota made it illegal to have a “squaw” placename; six more states have followed suit. The U.S. Forest Service in our region has declared the word offensive with respect to Forest Service placenames. Locally, the Washoe Tribe has actively sought name changes and has previously asked local government for the removal of “squaw” from locations within its ancestral homeland, which includes our resort.
When will the name be changed?
A team will begin work on choosing a new name immediately. We will announce the new name in early 2021, and it will begin to be implemented after the conclusion of the 2020-21 ski season.
What will the new name be? How is that decision being made?
A renaming project team, headed by resort leadership, will oversee the selection of a new name. The team will seek to find a new name that reflects our core values, storied past, and respect for all those who have enjoyed this land.
Will the resort continue to be called “Squaw Valley” until the name is changed, or will there be an interim name?
There will not be an interim name. A great deal of thought and logistical work will go into the name change, and it would be counterproductive to do something on a temporary basis, given the amount of work that will go into this change.
What about the many local businesses that use “Squaw” in their name? Will they be required to change theirs?
We are not seeking to impose our decision on the many independent businesses and associations that currently use the word in their name. However, we are hopeful that our leadership on the issue convinces others to change too.
Why does the resort think now is the right time to change the name?
The use of the term “squaw” in our resort name has been a topic of discussion for many years, but with the momentum of recognition and accountability we are seeing around the country, it is clear that the time has come for us to fully acknowledge and confront the reality of this word. We are fortunate to have the support and resources of our parent company, Alterra Mountain Company, to undergo the extensive and expensive process of a large-scale renaming of the entire resort. “Squaw Valley” is emblazoned all over our resort, from our uniforms and name tags to signage, vehicles, and even pint glasses. Changing our name is in no way the “easy way out,” but it is undoubtedly the right thing to do.
Won’t changing the name erase the history and legacy of the resort?
We have to accept that as much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, that love does not justify continuing to use a term that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur. While the resort name will change, this special place will always be the location of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the home of our beloved KT-22 chair lift, the place where extreme skiing pioneers changed the sport forever, and the treasured mountain home for so many people who revere this amazing ski resort.
Place-Names Changed From “Squaw” in North America:
The word “squaw” has already been removed from place names in the following areas:
- South Dakota
- Whistler, BC
In 1995, northern Minnesota removed the word “squaw” from 19 locations all over the state.
“Squaw Rock” on highway 101 in California was renamed “Frog Woman Rock” in 2011.
“Squaw Ridge” in the Sierra Nevada, CA was renamed “Hungaleti Ridge” in 2018.
Phoenix, AZ mayor Kate Gallego wants to change the name of two streets in Phoenix:
- Squaw Peak Drive
- Robert E. Lee Street
July 2021, Squaw Valley Crescent in Whistler, BC, was renamed Chamonix Crescent.
“The English word squaw is an ethnic and sexual slur, historically used for Indigenous North American women. Contemporary use of the term, especially by non-Natives, is considered offensive, derogatory, misogynist and racist.”