Major Tahoe Ski Resort to Drop 'Racist and Sexist Slur' From Name

August 25, 2020

    The Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski resort in Lake Tahoe is changing its 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," the resort said in a statement Tuesday morning.

    The resort was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics.

    "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," said Ron Cohen, the resort’s President and COO.

    The Washoe Tribe has fought to remove the word from names throughout its ancestral land, which includes the Tahoe area. The U.S. Forest Service has also deemed the word offensive to use in names.

    The name change is part of an ongoing national movement to reevaluate history and the legacies of historic figures to recognize harm against oppressed communities that has long been overlooked.

    Lake Tahoe ski resort
    Photo credit Eric Brooks/KCBS Radio

    San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza was renamed Embarcadero Plaza in 2017 because of Herman’s legacy of displacing over 10,000 poor and non-white residents from the city. In Marin County, a statue honoring Sir Francis Drake was taken down and a high school named after the slave trader is also undergoing a name change.

    "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," said Cohen. "We will find a new name that reflects our core values, storied past, and respect for all those who have enjoyed this land."

    Officials said there was no malicious intent when the name was first adopted in 1949 as it was a reference to the name of the valley, and guest and community members have no harmful intention when they say the name today.

    "However, the reality is the times change, societal norms evolve and we learn things we didn’t previously know...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."

    While some argue that the area’s name is intended to honor popular legend of faithful Indigenous women waiting for warriors to return home, the resort said that at the same time that the valley got its name, the word was already being used in a derogatory way and California was enacting laws that were harmful to the Indigenous community.

    "No matter the true origin or intent of the name, we do not believe you can honor someone with a name that they clearly consider to be offensive."

    The resort said a team will begin work immediately to come up with a new name, which will be announced next year and implemented after the 2020-2021 ski season.

    Part of the reason for the delay in changing the name is the extensive logistical work involved in removing the name from large signs, vehicles, uniforms and even glasses.

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