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1960 Winter Olympic host changes name over derogatory term

Squaw Valley

OLYMPIC VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: A skier leaves for the day at Squaw Valley Resort on March 14, 2020 in Olympic Valley, California Alterra Mountain Company, which owns Squaw Valley Resort, will suspend operations at all 15 of their North American ski resorts, starting the morning of Sunday, March 15, until further notice because of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — California’s popular Squaw Valley Ski Resort will change its name because the word “squaw” is a derogatory term for Native American women, officials announced Tuesday. The site was the scene of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The decision was reached after consulting with local Native American groups and extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” said Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant “woman,” but over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage indigenous women.

“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.

Work to find a new name will start immediately and is expected to be announced next year, he said.

When settlers arrived in the 1850s in the area where the Sierra Nevada resort is now located, they first saw only Native American women working in a meadow. The land near Lake Tahoe was believed to have been given the name Squaw Valley by those early settlers.

Regional California tribes have asked for the name of the resort to be changed numerous times over the years, with little success.

The renaming is one of many efforts across the nation to address colonialism and indigenous oppression, including the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus, a symbol to many of European colonization and the death of native people.

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