Fresno County recommends no Squaw Valley name change, but offers alternatives

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Fresno Co. recommends no Squaw Valley name change, offers alternatives
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Fresno County supervisors are giving a nod to the people who don't want to change the name of the town of Squaw Valley.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County supervisors are giving a nod to the people who don't want to change the name of the town of Squaw Valley.

The state and federal governments are forcing a change because the name is considered offensive.

California and the feds have started to remove the word from geographical names, but a lot of the people in Fresno County's east side are adamantly against it.

Just driving into the town of about 3,500 people where he grew up gives Ronan Anderson a sense of shame.

"I loved growing up there, but now when people ask me where I'm from, I say that I'm from Fresno and it hurts," Anderson said. "It deeply saddens me because I'm too embarrassed to say the name of my town."

The name on the sign means different things to different people.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American cabinet member and she deemed it derogatory and in need of change.

But a lot of people living in the town deny any offensive meaning. One man even challenged everyone to check the dictionary.

"So don't let anybody tell you because of the woke insanity of changing perspectives that this is now vulgar," Craig Cooper said.

"I never knew anything but "strong, independent Indian woman" for the word squaw," said Billy Melton.

"The name squaw means woman, female," said Scott Walker. "So we honor the women Indians in Squaw Valley."

"We don't appreciate being treated like a pimple on their butt that they have to squeeze, erase from existence," said Lonnie Work. "We are proud of our community. We're proud of our community name."

Every online dictionary we found notes the word is offensive and that's exactly how several Indigenous people say they hear it.

"This squaw means n****r, means c**t, means p***y, means b***h, means whore," said Delaine Bill, who says his father also tried to get the town's name changed decades ago. "That's what I grew up with. This is racial."

The county's board of supervisors passed a resolution Tuesday telling the state and federal governments that if the name has to change, their top three options would be Bear Mountain, Bear Valley, or to be part of an extended Dunlap. That's based on an unscientific poll from Supervisor Nathan Magsig, who says the responses to his informal poll showed residents want nothing less than a new name.

"To me, everything I've seen so far make it very clear that the residents of Squaw Valley do not want a name change," Supervisor Magsig said.

But as Supervisor Sal Quintero pointed out, the state and federal governments could simply ignore the county's resolution.

State law calls for the name to change by January 2025 and the federal government is conducting a review and could force a change even sooner.