Squaw Valley, a California ski resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, announced Tuesday that it is changing its name. The new name, which has yet to be determined, will be implemented in after the 2021 winter ski season comes to an end.
“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 offensive,” Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, said in an open letter. “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.”
The resort said it came to its decision after consulting with Native Americans, including the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral lands encompass Squaw Valley’s location in Lake Tahoe.
“The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the native people, of the Washoe people,” Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe Historic Preservation Office said in a statement released Tuesday. “It’s 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.”
“The simple fact is that the word ‘squaw’ is now widely accepted as a racial and sexist slur towards indigenous women, and we can no longer ignore the pain caused by perpetuating the use of this term, regardless of intent,” said Cohen.
Founded in 1949, Squaw Valley began as a small operation but was transformed after a long-shot bid to host the 1960 Winter Games was eventually approved by the International Olympic Committee. In men’s ice hockey, the United States team pulled off something of a miracle 20 years before its shocker in Lake Placid, N.Y. At Squaw Valley, unheralded Team USA sprung upsets against Czechoslavakia, Canada and the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal.
Technological innovations that emerged from the 1960 event included (per olympic.org) instant replay after judges asked for CBS’s help to determine if a skier missed a gate in a slalom event. In addition, quartz timers were first used to measure to a hundredth of a second, and computers were first used to produce and print event standings.
In a nod to the developing space race, Olympic organizing committee head Prentis C. Hale said in a speech at the opening ceremony, “You can return home as the world’s best-equipped ambassadors of unity and peace. Before we pay so much attention to conquering outer space, we should devote ourselves to conquering inner space: the distance between nations.”
In his letter Tuesday, Cohen said that “the founders of our resort had no intentions of causing offense in choosing this name for the resort, nor have any of our patrons who have spoken this word over the last seven decades.”
“(Cohen) is sincere about the feelings of the tribe and what it means,” Cruz, whose tribe has pushed in the past for the name change, said, per sfgatecom. “It’s almost like a wound being healed once they remove that name.”
The resort said that while the term has been “a topic of discussion for many years,” it decided to change its name now amid a national reckoning on racial and social justice.
“With the momentum of recognition and accountability we are seeing around the country, it is clear that the time has come for us to fully acknowledge and confront the reality of this word,” the resort said, citing seven states that, since 1995, have passed laws or made other efforts to remove the word “squaw” from official names.
Numerous terms and symbols of oppression of Native Americans and Black people have been removed or replaced over the past few months, including a decision in July by Washington’s NFL team to drop an offensive name it had used since 1933.
“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,” the resort said. “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.”