‘It’s just time’: Washoe Tribe representative weighs in on use of ‘squaw’
One of the area’s premier resorts has made headlines during the past week after announcing that it is considering moving away from a term deemed by many to be offensive toward Native Americans.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows officials said in a recent news release the resort is taking steps to review the use of “squaw” with plans of inviting regional Native American leaders and scholars to a summit in order to provide further guidance on the matter.
Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Historic Preservation Office and Cultural Resources Office Director Darrel Cruz said it’s time to remove the name, adding that he’s already had preliminary talks with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President and COO Ron Cohen.
“It’s just time. It’s appropriate to remove that name, and we are absolutely very happy to be working with Squaw Valley Resort,” said Cruz. “The word itself is a constant reminder of the unjust treatment of the native people, of the Washoe people. It’s a constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us. It’s a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else and we don’t agree with it.”
Cruz stressed that while he is a representative of the Washoe Tribe, only the tribal chairperson can speak for the tribe as a whole.
“As far as the tribe itself goes, I think they feel the same way,” added Cruz on the term “squaw.” “That name — we want to see it go away. There’s just a bad stigma associated with that name, and we think it’s a good time for it to go away.”
The term’s origins are unclear, according to a 2017 report by “Indian Country Today,” which stated “squaw” may be offensive or could have came from the Algonquian languages — spoken on the East Coast — for the totality of being female.
In any case, Cruz said the word was thrust upon the Washoe people, which is why he’s hoping to work with the resort on making a change.
“Wherever it originated and whatever the original intent was, it morphed itself into a term that is not favored upon by the native population,” said Cruz. “Would I say it’s offensive? Yes, I can. Would I say the word is disparaging to the tribe? Yes, I agree. It’s more or less the manner in which it’s used and it doesn’t settle well with us.”
Cruz added that the Washoe Tribe also owns land in Olympic Valley, which is part of the people’s ancestral lands.
“To have our own place in our own land with a name associated like that … can you see what I’m saying?” said Cruz.
The Washoe Tribe, which often partners with other agencies on restoration projects in the Truckee-Tahoe area, is also in talks with Placer County about removing the term “squaw” from other locations in the valley, like Squaw Valley Park.
The Washoe Tribe has been involved in similar work in past years regarding the use of “squaw.” In 2018, the tribe was part of a U.S. Forest Service policy that changed the name of Squaw Ridge in Amador and Alpine counties to the Washoe Tribe-requested Hungalelti Ridge.
Cruz added that in the future he’s set his sights on changing the name of Squaw Peak in Olympic Valley.
Officials from Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows said there is no further information at this time regarding the process or possibility of removing the term from the resort.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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