California Ski Resort Removing Native American Slur From Name After Decades of Requests

After ignoring requests to change its name for decades, a California ski resort bearing a derogatory word for Native American women changed its moniker on Monday to Palisades Tahoe.

Formerly Squaw Valley Ski Resort, the resort began the process of changing its name last year after a movement for racial justice took hold in the U.S. and abroad. Squaw was originally Algonquin for "woman," but over time it has transformed into a misogynist and racist way to describe Indigenous women.

"It was the right thing to do and I think it's going to make a difference. I think we're going to be seen as a more welcoming, inclusive resort and community," said Palisades Tahoe President and Chief Operating Officer Dee Byrne.

The move is among many made by institutions nationwide that addresses the legacy of colonialism and oppression against Native people and people of color in the U.S. In 2020, cities large and small answered calls to remove monuments of Christopher Columbus, who is thought to have brutalized and killed Native people in the New World.

Palisades Tahoe Resort
A popular California ski resort whose name included a derogatory term for Native American women will be called Palisades Tahoe, resort officials announced September 13, completing a new name search that began last year amid a reckoning over racial injustice. Above, a sign marking the 1960 Winter Olympics is seen by a chairlift at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, California. Haven Daley, File/AP Photo

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Byrne said that after studying the issue for the past year the resort's research concluded the word is very offensive "not just to Indigenous women but to all women."

The resort is in Olympic Valley, which was known as Squaw Valley until it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Tribes in the region had been asking the resort for a name change for decades.

The valley, in the Lake Tahoe area about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, is within the ancestral homeland of the Washoe people, Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office said in a statement. He said the word is a "constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It's a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else, and we don't agree with it."

Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey said the tribal council expressed "its great appreciation for this positive step forward."

"There's been a lot of progress but there's still a lot of work to be done," he added. "We need to continue to capitalize on that progress and continue to push forward."

Smokey said the tribe plans to work with the resort as well as Placer County officials to rename other public places and features in the Olympic Valley that continue to use the derogatory word.

Company officials said the resort's new logo honors the two legendary mountains that are part of it. And in a nod to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, it features an eagle, a symbol of the spiritual world for Native Americans.

Beyond changing its name, the company said it is partnering with the Washoe Tribe to educate resort guests about tribal culture. This summer, the resort launched the Washoe Cultural Tour series, offering a monthly talk by Cruz. The resort will also install an exhibit on the Washoe way of life.