The longtime name of the unincorporated community, Squaw Valley, was wiped off the map by federal and state action. “Squaw” was deemed offensive, a derogatory word to describe women.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors think they should have the right to establish and change place names. By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the supervisors approved a change to the charter that gives them the authority.
Because it is a change in the charter, the item will be on the March 5, 2024 ballot, asking voters to grant the supervisors the authority to make name changes.
Supervisors Nathan Magsig, Buddy Mendes, and Steve Brandau voted yes; Brian Pacheco and Sal Quintero voted no.
“I’m one who believes that the voters here locally should have an opportunity to decide on this issue,” Magsig said, adding that he trusts the will of Fresno County voters.
Pacheco said the issue is settled, calling the supervisors’ vote an “act of futility.”
“We have a constitutional republic and as such the federal government supersedes the state. State supersedes the county,” Pacheco said. “I believe this is a divisive issue and there is no resolution on this. You cannot find common ground by what we witnessed today.”
What Should the Name Be?
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2022, requiring the removal of geographic features and place names in California with the word “squaw.”
Also, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has created a federal task force and issued an order to rename 650 geographic features across the country that include “squaw” — a word officially deemed derogatory by the federal government.
The federal government recognizes the community as Yokuts Valley.
Magsig, who represents the community, acknowledged a name change might be appropriate, but he said the county should make any renaming decision.
“I am open to doing that. I think it’s a process that needs to be methodical and one that includes all residents of a particular area that’s being impacted,” he said.
Bear Mountain Valley has been a popular choice if a name change does happen.
Nonetheless, signs dot Highway 180 for private businesses bearing the Squaw Valley name. Even the Cal Fire station retains the name.
Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting were mixed. Roman Rain Tree, who helped spur the name change, chastised the supervisors.
“To this day, you have yet to accept what the state and the federal government have decided. Instead, you want to change the rules, but you lost by the rules of which we are all bound to play by. It’s disgusting. It absolutely is. The racism, the blatant racism,” Rain Tree said.
Other speakers favored keeping Squaw Valley’s name.
No [ _ ] on YouTube
The closed captioning on the live stream of the meeting that aired on YouTube edited out the term “squaw” when it was said during the debate. Instead “[ _ ]” appeared.
The county does not set any filters on its captioning, spokeswoman Sonja Dosti tells Politics 101. She surmised YouTube edited the auto captioning.
YouTube has not responded to a request for comment.
Brandau Recuses During Mid Valley Vote
Citing a confusing new law about campaign finance, Supervisor Steve Brandau recused himself from a vote about Mid Valley Disposal.
Senate Bill 1439 took effect in January. It limits elected officials from voting on items involving donors who contribute more than $250.
In June Brandau accepted a $225 contribution from Mid Valley Disposal, and two $225 contributions from members of the family that operate the company.
“(It is a) very confusing, poorly written law. And I don’t even know if that applies to me today. That’s how bad this law’s written. But out of an abundance of caution, I’m going to recuse myself,” Brandau said. He left the chamber during the vote.
The supervisors, including Brandau, also voted on an item involving Mid Valley Disposal in March. The law says elected leaders cannot take contributions for 12 months after voting on issues involving donors, which calls into question acceptance of the June donations.
The item passed, 4-0.