Skiing Destination Changes Name for Cultural Sensitivity

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Squaw Valley Changes its Name

If you're a snow bunny, chances are you have probably spent a weekend or two at the popular Lake Tahoe ski resort Squaw Valley. But this year as you make winter plans, be sure to note that the name has been changed to Palisades Tahoe.

According to the New York Times, the change is due to resort officials who acknowledge that the name "squaw" is insensitive and outdated.

"As much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, we must accept that these emotional attachments do not justify our continuing use of a word that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur," said Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. "We will find a new name that reflects our core values, storied past, and respect for all those who have enjoyed this land."

Racial sensitivity has become a hot-button social issue over the past few years. In the case of the former Squaw Valley, officials simply hadn't done the research about the term until recently.

After a community meeting and a public survey, the fate of the old name was sealed.

“‘Squaw’ is a hurtful term, and we’re not hurtful people,” explained Dee Byrne, the president and chief operating officer of the resort, on Monday. “Palisades Tahoe totally aligns with our values and what we want to represent to the marketplace going forward.”

Byrne says the new title is a tribute to the terrain and history of the resort and the enthusiasts who have been using it over the past 70 years. Originally opened in 1949, the resort hosted the 1960 Olympics.

Native American iconography or stereotypical symbolism is used to promote everything from sports teams to food and beverages. Change has been slow in these areas.

The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California applauded the removal of the name at the resort, calling it a "bold" move.

“They were willing to do it,” Serrell Smokey, the tribe’s chairman, said in an interview with The New York Times. “They were not forced. Of course the tribe pushed them for many years. But the fact that they were willing to do the right thing and get rid of this very hurtful word that was in the name of their resort was just really bold.”

This is just one success story according to Smokey who says he's worked for many years to stop commercializing the word "squaw." He notes that at some point the word just became an accepted term.

“It affects all Native people across the country,” he added. “It was a term that was used to belittle others, mainly women, to dehumanize them so that it was OK for them in the eyes of the Americans to be abused, murdered, raped and turned into slaves.”

Although the new name will immediately be implemented, signage and other markers will undergo a transition to the new name starting immediately after the 2021 spring ski season.

The resort has already changed its social media handles to Palisades Tahoe following an announcement on September 13, 2021. They say it took about a year to finally decide on an appropriate name for the resort, but that does nothing to change the spot's place in history.

"While the name may be new," they wrote, "the legend and legacy of these valleys continue on, now as Palisades Tahoe."

In light of that statement, many commenters on Facebook showed their disapproval saying that the term "Palisades" is in fact, just as divisive, while others applauded the change.

"I'm glad the name change has arrived!" wrote Jessica Hickok. "Congrats on all the work you put into working with the community to find a new name. I'm glad that the racist slur is no longer in your name. 'Palisades Tahoe' is new to my ear, so will take a bit to get used to, but in time it'll feel just as familiar as the old name. I'll see you at Palisades Tahoe this winter!"

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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