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Effort to Rename County’s Squaw Valley Area Put on Hold After Complaints

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A proposal seeking to change the name of the Squaw Valley area of Fresno County was postponed Wednesday night by the Orange Cove City Council. Mayor Victor Lopez said the delay in discussing a resolution calling for renaming the area “Nim Valley” was done to allow the city to seek more community input.

This is an update. The original story continues below.

A resolution to rename “Squaw Valley” in eastern Fresno County is creating headaches for leaders in the city of Orange Cove.

According to the proposed resolution posted online as part of Wednesday night’s Orange Cove City Council agenda, the word “Squaw” is an informal term referring to Native American women that has come to mean “both a part of the female genitalia and a woman of ill repute.”

The resolution seeks to authorize the renaming of the area to “Nim Valley,” which the document states “identifies, and honors our homelands first inhabitants in the local Western Mono indigenous language.”

Supervisor Nathan Magsig Speaks Out

portrait of Nathan Magsig

“I am not interested in having any cities trying to tell communities outside of their city limits what the names should be of those communities.”Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, who represents the Squaw Valley area, tells GV Wire℠ he has been getting urgent messages from constituents concerned about the possible name change. Magsig addressed the issue in a Facebook live video Wednesday afternoon.

“The term Squaw is offensive to some Native American groups,” said Magsig. “I am not interested in having any cities trying to tell communities outside of their city limits what the names should be of those communities.”

Magsig says as far as he’s concerned, the name Squaw Valley will remain until the community itself decides it should be changed.

Resolution Brought Forward by Resident

GV Wire℠ contacted Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez, who initially said he hadn’t even heard of the resolution that he’s set to vote on at 6:30 p.m.

A short time later, Lopez said he had since learned the resolution was dropped off in December by a man who identified himself as Roman Rain Tree. The city manager then decided to put it on the council agenda for discussion, Lopez said.

“Citizens bring in whatever they want to bring in and they put it on the agenda to be discussed.”Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez

GV Wire℠ spoke with City Manager Rudy Hernandez who confirmed he added the resolution to the agenda.

“Citizens bring in whatever they want to bring in and they put it on the agenda to be discussed,” says Lopez. “I will not vote in favor of it. I can tell you right now, I guarantee you I will not support that.”

Lopez says he has not spoken with the three other council members who will be in attendance tonight to see what their views are. “I can guarantee you they won’t — they will not support it,” he said.

Online Petition Also Seeks Name Change

What’s rankled some area residents is they’re just now learning about it.

Squaw Valley resident Joyce Berube messaged both Magsig and Fresno Assemblyman Jim Patterson on Facebook with her concerns.

“It affects us greatly, as Orange Cove is Our Originating Post Office,” wrote Berube. “We residents of Squaw Valley are basically opposed to a “City” not inclusive of our area, attempting to Officially begin this process, and Also of the Last Minute Notification.”

Attempts to contact Roman Rain Tree have not been successful, but his name is associated with a change.org petition called “Rename Squaw Valley Fresno County” that was initiated in late August 2020.

The petition currently has 325 signatures.

Part of the petition reads, “The current name underscores the disparaging impact on the local community of which the name represents. The word “squaw” perpetuates a sexualized, exploitative, and humiliating narrative that continues to focus the desires and disgust of early Euro-Americans on the bodies of Native American women. Please join our collective effort with your show of support by signing our petition to change the name Squaw Valley.”

Unrelated to Squaw Valley Ski Resort Name Change

The petition says the effort is unrelated to the Squaw Valley ski resort in the Lake Tahoe area, which recently committed to changing its name later this year.

The name change 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, the resort’s president and COO.

“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 offensive,” Cohen is quoted as saying on the resort’s website.

“We have to accept that as much as we cherish the memories we associate with our resort name, that love does not justify continuing to use a term that is widely accepted to be a racist and sexist slur.”

Regional California tribes had asked for the name of the resort to be changed numerous times over the years, with no success until now.