Campaign to Change The Name
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Since the arrival of European settlers, Native American peoples have been subjected to genocide, erasure, and forced assimilation at the hands of the government. Today, more than 4 in 5 Indigenous women report having experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence.
Native American scholars, activists, and leaders agree that stereotypical mascots and place names – far from “honoring” Native peoples – are deeply damaging and further racist and reductive views of Indigenous peoples. Throughout the county, governments, schools, and sports teams are reckoning with this truth – and taking necessary steps to end the harm inflicted by names like “Squaw.” But Fresno County has yet to do so.
- Indigenous communities in California are still seeking to heal from two centuries of indentured servitude, sexual violence and trafficking, forced relocation, boarding schools, and widespread removal of children from their families through the child welfare system.
- The term “squaw” is a racist and derogatory term that paints Indigenous women as nothing more than dirty, immoral, worthless creatures to be exploited, sexualized, and subjugated.
- This dehumanizing depiction of Indigenous women has devastating and deadly consequences; California has the fifth-highest number of cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People in the country.
- The “Squaw Valley” Ski Resort – home to the 1960 Winter Olympics – announced its name change this year. Why hasn’t Fresno County followed suit?
The state of California was founded on the forced removal, enslavement, and genocide of Indigenous peoples. It is our collective responsibility to recognize these past injustices and how they impact Indigenous communities today, and at the very least, ensure that they do not endure.
WHY THIS IS AN ACLU ISSUE
Through our Indigenous Justice work, the ACLU of Northern California recognizes that Indigenous peoples continue to suffer from historic injustices as a result of their colonization and dispossession of their lands, people, culture, languages, and resources. We must not celebrate or whitewash that history with derogatory place names, or erase the impact of such names on Native communities living in California today.
The term “squaw” is a racist and derogatory slur that has paints Indigenous women as nothing more than dirty, worthless, immoral creatures to be exploited, sexualized, and subjugated. This dehumanizing depiction excuses violence against Indigenous women – feeding the current crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people.
Local Indigenous leaders and residents are calling on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to live up to its stated values of “working together for a quality of life for all” and “respecting and embracing ethnic and cultural diversity” by changing the name of “Squaw Valley.” In their petition, residents share that “the current name perpetuates a sexualized, exploitative, and humiliating narrative that continues to focus the desires and disgust of early European-Americans on the bodies of Native American women.”
Across the country, localities, schools, and even national football teams have realized the profoundly damaging impact of racist mascots and place names on Indigenous communities. The “Squaw Valley” Ski Resort has joined the movement – and it is past time for Fresno County to catch up!
The Rename Sq**w Valley Coalition reached out on numerous occasions to the Fresno Board of Supervisors about changing the name of Squaw Valley. The coalition was met with roadblocks including unreturned calls and no commitment on the part of the Board of Supervisors to take up this important issue or meet with community members to hear their concerns. However, we still hope that the Board of Supervisors will reconsider and listen to the community's call to replace the word sq**w with a dignified name that respects all of Fresno's community members.
LOCAL LEADERSHIP AND BROAD LOCAL SUPPORT
There is broad community support for this effort. Between the change.org petition and the ACLU NorCal petition in support, over 17,000 people have signed on. And at the June 23 Rename S Valley webinar, community members and participants expressed overwhelming support for the campaign – over 90% of the community present voiced support for the renaming S Valley.
When asked “which statement best describes how you feel about the term ‘squaw?’,” over 86% of people responded either: “I think we should listen to the people who are impacted by this word – especially Indigenous people in Fresno County – and follow their lead,” or “I find it deeply offensive and harmful.”