‘Derogatory and offensive’: Tahoe ski resort Squaw Valley to change its name

National news

By Michael McGough

The Sacramento Bee

The Lake Tahoe-area ski resort Squaw Valley has decided to drop the word “squaw” from its name, ownership announced Tuesday, saying the term is “derogatory and offensive” toward Native Americans.

A new name hasn’t been determined, and it is targeted to be unveiled in early 2021 and implemented at the resort by that summer, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President Ron Cohen wrote in an emailed statement sent Tuesday morning.

“I am pleased to announce our commitment to removing ‘Squaw’ from our resort name,” Cohen wrote. “The concerns about our name have been long discussed, but as we all find ourselves in a time of increased awareness and righteous demands for accountability, our leadership team has concluded we must move from discussion to action.”

That discussion gained steam this June. In the aftermath of sweeping nationwide protest demonstrations denouncing racism and police brutality in the wake of the late May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many activists have called for renaming businesses, cities, geological features and other locations that have names including racial slurs or other derogatory language.

Christine Horvath, a Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows spokesperson, said in a June email that “what’s going on right now” nationwide prompted the business to create a plan to review the use of the term, which has culminated in the recent decision to move forward with the change.

“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,” Cohen continued in Tuesday’s announcement, “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.”

A page on the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows website briefly explains that work to determine a new name for the resort will begin “immediately,” but the replacement name won’t be announced until early 2021.

“Implementation of the name change will occur after the winter season concludes in 2021,” the website says, with Cohen’s email saying the resort “can’t feasibly implement” the change before then.

That means that while the name is on its way out, the resort is still officially called Squaw Valley for now, including on its website, social media pages and other communications.

The resort is located along the north side of Lake Tahoe near sister resort Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is part of the Alterra Mountain Co., which includes a dozen resorts in the U.S. and Canada controlled by KSL Capital Partners. Alterra also owns Mammoth Mountain and Big Bear in California.

More than a decade ago, the Resort at Squaw Creek held a summit for stakeholders to discuss the use of the term, which included input from Native American leaders, Horvath said. At the end of that summit, the name remained.

More than 100 places across California have “squaw” in their official name, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The word shows up on California maps attached to creeks, rocks and gulches.