Fresno judge squeezes options for restoring “Squaw Valley” name

A ruling by a Fresno County Superior Court judge leaves Fresno County officials with a small avenue to pursue litigation to flip the naming of Yokuts Valley back to Squaw Valley.

A Fresno County Superior Court judge narrowed the path for Fresno County to contest the use of the word “Squaw” in Squaw Valley.

Superior Court Judge Tyler Tharpe granted a demurrer sought by the State of California, finding that the County – as a division of state government – did not possess standing to sue.


The backstory: The banning of “Squaw” from Squaw Valley stems from AB 2022, a 2022 California law which requires the word “Squaw” to be removed from all city and county names in the state.

  • The US Board on Geographic Names previously changed its official recognition of the town to Yokuts Valley, following a suggestion by Fresno activist Roman Rain Tree, who was happy with the ruling and opposed the county’s lawsuit.

The case-in-chief: Tharpe initially ruled in favor of the state with regards to Fresno County’s lawsuit challenging the law, stating that political subdivisions such as cities and counties lacked standing to sue the state for constitutional violations.

  • However, Tharpe stated that Fresno County could file a second complaint that demonstrates standing on behalf of the town’s residents, who could then sue the state themselves.
  • Some residents and officials of Squaw Valley have resisted the change, seeing it as a threat to their local control, and hope that the county will continue litigation on their behalf.

What’s next: Fresno County Supervisors are set to discuss the litigation during Tuesday’s board meeting, with expectation to continue the lawsuit.

  • “I believe that the county does have the right to be able to file on behalf of its of its citizens,” Supervisor Nathan Magsig told GV Wire.
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