Squaw Valley – home to the 1960 Winter Olympics – became the latest US institution to yield to public pressure and change its name, dropping the ‘racist and sexist’ term for a Native American woman that’s rooted in the Lewis and Clark era.
The Lake Tahoe-region resort in Northern California, known as the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, will now be called Palisades Tahoe, the owners announced Monday in an Instagram post.
‘As much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, we must accept that these emotional attachments do not justify our continuing use of a word that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur,’ Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, told CNN.
The move comes as Confederate statues around the country come tumbling down and sports franchises like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians moved to dissociate themselves from nicknames viewed as derogatory.
The resort in Olympic Valley, California has 6,000 skiable acres on two mountains and sees about 400 inches of snow every year, according to its website
The popular ski resort in Northern California changed its name, which drew raise from the Washoe Tribe, who lived in area before white settlers took it over
‘With the momentum of recognition and accountability we are seeing around the country, we have reached the conclusion that now is the right time to acknowledge a change needs to happen,’ Cohen said.
The word ‘squaw’ also falls into that group, now being seen as an offensive term for an indigenous woman that was a shortened form of the original Mohawk word ‘otsikwaw,’ which is translated to mean ‘vagina.’
During the late 1700s and 1800s, the word was hijacked by white settlers and used to describe a Native American woman who provided sexual favors to white men. It was used in this fashion by well-known writers throughout the 1800s, including James Fenimore Cooper’s ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ which was published in 1826.
The former Squaw Valley ski resort – now renamed Palisades Tahoe – was founded in 1949 and hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics
Petitions for the ski resort to change its name was signed by thousands of people last year, Cohen said.
The backlash spurred the owners to dive into the history of the word and said in a an internal July 2020 report that fur traders in the 1700s and 1800s used the Native American term to ‘denote a woman who provides sexual satisfaction to white men.’
An internal report from July 2020 also said many press guidelines for major publications – such as Fox and its affiliates, the Associated Press and USA Today, among others – classify the term as ‘derogatory’ or call it a ‘racial slur.’
Formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski resort in Northern California said on Instagram that it will be dropping the ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ word ‘squaw’ from its name: ‘While the name may be new, the legend and legacy of these valleys continue on, now as Palisades Tahoe. #PalisadesTahoe’
White fur traders around the time of Lewis and Clark corrupted the definition of squaw, which has continued to present day
Seven states have banned the use of ‘squaw’ since 1995
Minnesota, 1995: state law enacted to change the names of 19 geographic features with squaw names ‘to other nonderogatory names.’
Montana, 1999-2009: A 10-year process removed squaw from the names of 76 streams, buttes and mountains across the state. Most of the name changes are official, although a few are winding their way through the process.
Maine, 2000: A state law changed all names including the word ‘squaw’ to be considered an ‘offensive name’ equivalent to the n-word
Oklahoma, 2000: Squaw was removed from all geographical locations
Idaho, 2002: Squaw was removed from all geographical locations because ‘Native Americans and many citizens of the state find the term “squaw” objectionable and offensive to Native Americans.’
South Dakota, 2003: ‘Offensive’ place names in South Dakota using the word squaw are replaced
Oregon, 2003: Prohibited the use of ‘squaw’
‘While we love our local history and the memories, we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term “squaw” is considered offensive,’ Cohen said.
Before white settlers took over the area of Northern California, it was the home of the Washoe Tribe, which praised the name change as a ‘bold’ decision.
‘They were willing to do it,’ Serrell Smokey, the tribe’s chairman, told The New York Times.
‘They were not forced. Of course the tribe pushed them for many years. But the fact that they were willing to do the right thing and get rid of this very hurtful word that was in the name of their resort was just really bold.’
It’s unclear how many other places in California or around the country use have the word ‘squaw’ in the name of geographical location or if they’ll be replaced too.
To date, the federal Board of Geographic Names has outlawed only two words – the n-word and ‘Jap.’
Native American groups across the country have lobbied to get ‘squaw’ added to the list.
Seven states have taken it upon themselves to ban the word from geographical location names: Minnesota, Montana, Maine, Oklahoma, Idaho, South Dakota and Oregon.
Some cities around the country have replaced ‘squaw’, including Phoenix, Arizona and Buffalo, New York, while others – such as Provo, Utah – are in the process of doing the same.
The name changes comes at a time when the United States is undergoing what some refer to as ‘cancel culture.’
The country’s racial reckoning has included Native America the removal of what some consider to be offensive Native American terms.
Scroll down to the bottom for full report.
Two of the 18 slides of the power point presentation about the name change from July 2020 (scroll down to see all slides)
‘Squaw’: A shortened form of the original Mohawk word that meant vagina was corrupted by white fur traders
The original definition of the term Mohawk term ‘squaw’ meant ‘women’s genitalia’ or ‘vagina’ until white fur traders in the 1700s and 1800s hijacked the definition to denote a Native American woman who provides sexual satisfaction to white men.
It emphasized sexual desires when it was used.
The corrupted definition was then used in literature throughout the 1800s, which further entrenched it as derogatory word.
A ‘squaw’ in literature – particularly in the 1800s – was the foil to a beautiful princess and considered to be beauty’s ‘darker twin,’ ‘debased, immoral, a sexual convenience,’ and ‘lower than bad white women.’
Since then, the term ‘squaw’ has had a negative connotation and became and offensive word.
Over the last year, Washington D.C. dropped the word ‘Redskins’ from its football’s team and the Cleveland baseball team dropping the word ‘Indians’ from its team name.
The debate raged last week after America’s largest Confederate statue – the 12-ton bronze statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia – was removed from its pedestal.
The removal of the General Lee drew criticism from conservatives and some historians, most notably from former President Donald Trump.
‘Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the radical left, and we can’t let that happen,’ Trump said in an emailed statement.
‘If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago.
‘What an embarrassment we are suffering because we don’t have the genius of a Robert E. Lee!’
The Olympic Valley resort in the Lake Tahoe region has 6,000 skiable acres on two mountains and sees about 400 inches of snow every year, according to its website.
‘Today marks the first day of the next chapter of our resort’s storied history,’ Palisades Tahoe said in its Instagram post.
‘From our founding in 1949 and hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, to the free-skiing pioneers and Olympians that put us on the map, the last seven decades have cemented our mountains’ place in the halls of ski history.
‘While the name may be new, the legend and legacy of these valleys continue on, now as Palisades Tahoe. #PalisadesTahoe.’
Full July 2020 internal report by the Palisades Tahoe Sky Resort