I n September, the popular Lake Tahoe Squaw Valley ski resort announced it would be changing its name, recognize that the term was " derogatory and offensive ". It became official with a press release and a new sign.
But that 's not the end of the name in California . Hundreds of miles south in Fresno County near Kings Canyon National Park is another Squaw Valley. The central California city of around 3,500 residents dates back to the 19th century and is one of nearly 100 places in California to use the term controvinserted in its name.
Derived from the Algonquin language, the word "squaw" would formerly have meant "woman," however, it has become a misogynistic and racist term used to denigrate Indigenous women. It is also a commonly used place name in the United States - more than 650 federal sites include it in their names.
After the historic 2020 protests against racism and white supremacy in the United States after the murder of George Floyd, cities, schools and parks across the United States began to reconsider controversial names with racist stories. A commission from California rena med a park which was named after a settlerwhite accused of murdering Natives. Placer County Supervisory Board voted to change a racist street name in northern Lake Tahoe in response to residents' concerns. This month, Deb Haaland, the Home Secretary, announced that she would take action to eradicate misogynist and racist term from federal lands across the United States.
Renaming efforts in Fresno County gained momentum after Tahoe Ski Resort first announced its planned change. Roman Rain Tree, a member of the local Dunlap Band of Mono Indians and Choinumni who lives 30 miles from the land he calls S-Valley, hoped the Tahoe decision will convinceit to Fresno County officials that it was time to change there, too, and remove a name that he said "memorizes the sexualized and genocidal acts that the early settlers carried out against the indigenous peoples of this country.
But the effort has turned into an at times tense battle between activists such as Rain Tree and officials in this conservative region, who support that the name is part of the identity of the region and that any plans to change it must come from the inhabitants themselves.
"The process must be piloted by the community, ”said Nathan Magsig, the Fresno County Supervisor who represents the area. “A name isn 't just something on a piece of paper. Names are an identity. "
When Rain Tree tried to meet with the supervisory board, he said, he was told he had to first show that there was asupport for a name change. Rain Tree launched a petition , which has since collected nearly 20,000 signatures from people across the United States.
He and other activists have since organized panels and posted public service announcements on the name. They have also started working with the ACLU, which says that rating names, and who and what they honor, is important.
"There is no reason why there are still place names that are racial and misogynistic slurs," said Tedde Simon, an indigenous justice advocate with the Northern ACLU from California.