Calling it a derogatory and offensive term, the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe announced Tuesday that it planned to drop the word “squaw” from its name and adopt a different title next year.
The decision comes about a month after the Washington NFL franchise announced plans to drop its “Redskins” name and logo, the head of a Native American, after some pressure from major advertisers and decades of censure by tribal and civil rights groups.
The operators of the California ski resort said the decision to drop “squaw” came after “extensive research into the etymology and history of the term,” along with discussions with Native American groups, including the local Washoe tribe.
Linguists and other experts on Native American languages describe “squaw” as a disparaging word for “woman” or “wife.”
An official representative of the Washoe tribe could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but tribal member Helen Fillmore told local public radio station KUNR-FM (88.7) in July that the term makes her feel “disrespected” and “terrible.”
When the resort is named in conversation, what Fillmore hears is a barrage of slurs, she said. “All of a sudden people are asking if you ski and telling you about how they’re going to go ski, racial slur. ‘Let’s go ski, racial slur,’” she said. “People don’t even think twice about how that word is impacting the person they’re talking to.”
A wildlife refuge, a lake and several other outdoor features whose names once included the word have received new monikers over the years, and the resort plans to add itself to the list.
“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,” Ron Cohen, the resort’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We will find a new name that reflects our core values, storied past, and respect for all those who have enjoyed this land.”
The resort said it will announce a new name in 2021 and begin to use it after the end of the next winter season.
Squaw Valley, which opened in 1949, and nearby Alpine Meadows combined in 2011 under the parent company KSL Capital Partnersand the management company Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.
The resort, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960, has also been known as Olympic Valley.
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