California ski resort changes name over offensive term for Native American women

California ski resort changes name over offensive term for Native American women
A sign marking the 1960 Winter Olympics is seen by a chairlift at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, California (AP)

California’s popular Squaw Valley Ski Resort will change its name because the word “squaw” is a derogatory term for Native American women, officials said.

The resort hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The decision was reached after consulting with local Native American groups and extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw”, said Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

The word “squaw”, derived from the Algonquin language, may have once simply meant “woman”. But over generations, the word morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women.

Mr Cohen said: “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 considered offensive.”

Work to find a new name will start immediately and is expected to be announced next year, he said.

When settlers arrived in the 1850s in the area where the Sierra Nevada resort is now located, they first saw only Native American women working in a meadow.

The land near Lake Tahoe was believed to have been given the name Squaw Valley by those early settlers.

Regional California tribes have asked for the name of the resort to be changed numerous times over the years, with little success.

The resort hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960 (AP)

The renaming is one of many efforts across the nation to address racial discrimination, colonialism and Indigenous oppression, including the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus, a symbol to many of European colonisation and the death of native people.

A growing number of brands are rethinking their marketing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Last month, the Washington NFL franchise announced it was dropping the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo, bowing to recent pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

A new name must still be selected for one of the oldest and most famous teams in the National Football League, and it is unclear how soon that will happen.

In June, Quaker Oats announced that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognises the character’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype”.

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