Effort to change Squaw Valley’s name is not enough to make it stick, supervisor says

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FRESNO COUNTY, California (KGPE) – A push to change the name of a Fresno County community has gained some traction, but not the kind that can initiate change, according to Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig.

In January, an online petition was started to change the name of Squaw Valley to Nim Valley, citing the current name as offensive to Native Americans.

A man who identified himself as Roman Rain Tree started the petition, which has now gained about 2,700 signatures. Around the same time, Orange Cove’s city council postponed a resolution giving city officials the chance to vote on the name change. The move left Squaw Valley business owners like Lonnie Work confused.

“Orange Cove is not part of us, and we’re not part of them,” Work said. “We were all upset to hear that a sister city or neighboring city decided they wanted to be involved in our area.”

Work owns Squaw Valley Realty – and his family has been in the area for generations. In a statement over the phone, Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez said the resolution was introduced by a concerned resident but was not heard by the city council. Lopez said Orange Cove had no business changing a nearby community’s name.

The petition reads in part:

Squaw is widely received and regarded by both Native American and non-Native American communities as sexually offensive and derogatory… the current name perpetuates a sexualized, exploitative, and humiliating narrative.

Roman Rain Tree, the petition organizer, could not be reached for comment. Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, who represents Squaw Valley, says this kind of initiative must start within the community.

“To my knowledge, I’m not aware of a whole lot of outreach that has taken place to the residents of Squaw Valley and the surrounding area,” Magsig said. “And really that’s the first step.”

Magsig says he understands some may find the term offensive and some might not, but having Squaw Valley resident input is crucial.

“I am open to being a facilitator for that discussion to take place,” Magsig said. “But I’m not one to be quick to judgment on any of this. I think it’s an issue that should be studied.”

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