California Town Wrestles With Its Offensive Name: Squaw Valley

California Town Wrestles With Its Offensive Name: Squaw Valley

Posted By BrittanyLCerny March 4th, 2021 Last Updated on: March 10th, 2021

Think of the word that you find the most offensive of any word in the dictionary. Now, imagine living in a town by that name. It's part of your address, it's plastered across street signs and local shops, it's all around you. And there's nothing you can do about it. 

Some residents of one town in Fresno County, California, town, don't have to imagine that. Because they live in a place called Squaw Valley—yes, really.

Squaw Valley is a 4,000-person town nestled along the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its population is roughly 70 percent Caucasian, and only about 1.4 percent Native American. If you're doing the math, that's only about 60 Native Americans in the whole town, which may lend some guidance as to why the offensive name still stands. 



What’s in a name?

“Squaw” is an ethnic and sexual slur that dates back hundreds of years. The term refers to a Native American woman’s genitalia, thus sexualizing and objectifying Native women in humiliating fashion. It also serves as a painful reminder of how European settlers once used Native female bodies in whichever way they pleased. 

For what it's worth, this isn't the first time the word has been the center of a controversy.

An article in the Buffalo News in 2015, Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River wrote:

The continued use and acceptance of the word ‘Squaw' only perpetuates the idea that indigenous women and culture can be deemed as impure, sexually perverse, barbaric and dirty … Please do eliminate the slur ‘Squaw' from your community.”

What is happening with Squaw Valley in California?

On January 27, 2021, at the Orange Cove City Council meeting, a proposal surfaced to change Squaw Valley to Nim Valley. According to the authors of the proposal, “Nim” represents the homeland’s very first inhabitants, the Western Mono Indigenous people. 

This legislation was passed. 



But it didn’t end in the resolution part of the community was hoping for—at least not yet. 

The name change has been put on hold after complaints from within the community. 

What some community members are saying…

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig responded on his Facebook page immediately after the decision was passed in the council meeting:

“The term Squaw is offensive to some Native American groups,” Magsig said. “I am not interested in having any cities trying to tell communities outside of their city limits what the names should be of those communities.”

Magsig says as far as he’s concerned, the name Squaw Valley will remain until the community itself decides it should be changed, according to the GVWire

Another opponent of the Squaw Valley name change is Orange Cove’s very own mayor, Victor Lopez.

“Citizens bring in whatever they want to bring in and they put it on the agenda to be discussed,” Lopez said. “I will not vote in favor of it. I can tell you right now, I guarantee you I will not support that.”

Petition to change Squaw Valley's name

A citizen Roman Raintree began a petition on Change.org called Rename Squaw Valley Fresno County. The petition has already secured more than 2,100 signatures. Raintree is seeking 2,500 total. 

Will that be enough to sway political leaders to change Squaw Valley's name once and for all?

 


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About BrittanyLCerny

About PowWows.com - Founded in 1996, PowWows.com is your online gathering for all things Native American culture. Explore American Indian Culture through articles, interviews, videos, photos, and live streaming.



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Joseph

https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/handle/10088/94999/squaw%20article%20on%20web%20page.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

The word “squaw” is an algonquin term that simply means, “woman”. When people only look at the negative connotations then we get misinformation and feelings that aren’t squared to truth! I am sure that there are perverted pundits that want the word to mean genitalia and anything derogatory just so they can virtue signal about it!

Maria Alcantar

Any name that is offensive and hurtful to our native Americans should be changed. Native Americans are the first peoples that inhabited this world before the coming of Columbus. They have my vote even though i do not live there.

Donna Nagle

Stand together and this name change. There are so many insensitive people.
You have my vote.

Linda Armendariz

I don’t live in that city but I do believe that the name Squaw Valley is derogatory and should be changed. If the Washington Redskins and some of the other sports teams can change their names to show respect then this town can change as well. I’m disappointed in the insensitivity of the people that insist the name doesn’t change. Shame on them.

Donna Nagle

Squaw Valley Fresno County certainly should be changed immediately. Native peoples must stand together to get this passed.

Running Doe

This page is dedicated to petitioning the renaming of Squaw Valley located in Fresno County. A collective effort, based on the indigeneity of the community, to respect all Native American communities by confronting the use of the offensive misogynistic slur “squaw” in Squaw Valley. Not to be confused with Squaw Valley ski resort, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, that recently committed to disavowing the slur and agreeing to change the name. Squaw Valley Fresno County, located in Fresno County District 5 (zip codes 93646 and 93675) is represented by Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, California State Senator Andreas Borgias, California State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, and U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock. The current name underscores the disparaging impact on the local community which the name represents. The word “squaw” perpetuates a sexualized, exploitative, and humiliating narrative that continues to focus the desires and disgust of early Euro-Americans on the bodies of Native American women. Please join our collective effort with your show of support by signing our petition to change the name Squaw Valley. the name should be changed I learned long ago Squaw you shoud never use, to native women,

Brian

I see based on the disapproval comments that it’s just males opposed to the name change. Were any WOMEN opposed to the name change or just men? Answering that question could shine a light on something people might not want to see.

Marc R Wormser

The ignorance and disrespect that continues to invade our society is shameful. We have always failed to ask cultures we know nothing about what certain words mean and why we, as whites, have adopted those words and terms that denigrate someone else’s culture. The refusal to respect another person’s culture because it might be different than one’s own, simply perpetuates the arrogance and jaundiced views of the “white man”. The so-called “white man” continues to look down on anyone different and refuses to recognize the prejudices and racism since Christopher Columbus. While a town, such as Squaw Valley, is predominantly not Native American, common courtesy and respect should influence the changing of a name.

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