Squaw Valley under review as hundreds of other locations remove 'squaw' from name

Jessica Harrington Image
Saturday, September 10, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

The federal government is removing the word 'squaw' from hundreds of geographic features because it's considered racist and derogatory.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The federal government has come up with new names for hundreds of geographic features that previously had 'squaw' in their names.

The US Department of Interior is removing the word 'Squaw' because it's considered racist and derogatory, especially against indigenous women.

In a statement Thursday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, herself the first Native American in that role, said, "I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long."

Local advocate, Roman Rain Tree, said he was glad to hear the news.

"I was just thrilled. I know residents personally chimed in and let their voices be heard that their opinion on the matter is that they prefer Yokuts Basin," said Rain Tree.

The federal renaming only applies to the Squaw Valley basin, not the community of Squaw Valley.

That remains under review along with six other unincorporated community names across the U.S.

The Interior Department said it will seek input from communities and stakeholders before making a final determination.

Rain Tree says he hopes the name change happens.

"Simply put, it's an offensive name because the S word is the equivalent of the C word, but it's specific for indigenous women," Rain Tree explained.

State lawmakers are also pushing for a new bill that would ban the word 'squaw' from being used in places named by the state.

A-B 2022 was authored by Assemblymembers James C Ramos and Cristina Garcia Ramos, also co-authored by Valley Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula.

Governor Newsom has until the end of the month to sign the bill and some are speculating he could do it on California Native American Day which is September 23rd.

But Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig says he's doesn't necessarily agree with changing the names.

"A lot of the narrative right now around the term 'squaw' is that it's always been a derogatory term. I personally reject that thought process because when I go back and look at the term 'squaw', I've seen it used in both a derogatory way and not in a derogatory way," Magsig said.

He says the residents and businesses will be impacted the most and need to have a chance to weigh in on the decision.

"I am again shocked that the federal government and state government seem to be tripping over themselves to make these changes that are going to affect us right here at the local level without local level input," Magsig said.

The county received a packet from the federal government Thursday, asking the county to weigh in on the name change.

Supervisor Magsig says he's now considering putting together a community meeting for residents to weigh in in the coming weeks.