Squaw Valley drops ‘offensive’ Squaw name

Squaw Valley is a lot of people’s favourite American ski area.

The K2-22 lift regularly tops polls of skier’s favourite all time lifts. But the times are changing, it’s not a great word for indigenous Americans and the resort has recognised that and will release a new name soon.

Can’t really think of any that offend dowunder, unless we switch out Blue Cow to Blue Cattle Dog (probably not good either) or Blue Wombat? Or Blue Bird, it is today! Of course if you could ski at Uluru formerly known as Ayers Rock that would count, and Kunanyi is getting big for Mt Wellington in Tassie now.

The iconic tram (and everything else) will need a rebrand at the resort formerly known as Squaw Valley © Han de Vre

Anyway, here’s their FAQs on why they are doing this:

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.

Plenty of sweet glades here too © Squaw Valley