Our very own Director of Community Outreach, Roman C. Rain Tree began the campaign to rename Squaw valley in the summer of 2020. At the heart of an unprecedented pandemic, Mr. Rain Tree found the drive to follow through on a lifelong goal of renaming his ancestral land. Growing up in Squaw Valley was a constant reminder of what non-Native Americans thought of Native American women. His mother, Gina Charley always wanted to see the name changed. She found it to be an offensive reminder of the ongoing attacks against Indigenous women and girls. As an adult Mr. Rain Tree set out to change the name in loving memory of his mother.
A Dunlap Band of Mono and Choinumni tribal descendant raised in Squaw Valley, Mr. Rain Tree earned a degree in Native American Studies at UC Davis for the sole purpose of helping his tribes. Generations of his family have come and gone, never seeing the realization of federal recognition. Mr. Rain Tree intently studied NAGPRA, Indigenous epistemology, and conducted in depth research into Central Valley Indigenous history and California politics that directly effected Central Valley Indigenous tribes. Upon starting his own family, he returned to his home in Fresno County and immediately went to work.
Seeing that many of the Indigenous people in Fresno County had become dependent upon public assistance for survival and access to their endangered cultures, Mr. Rain Tree gathered family and friends and co-founded Seeds of Sovereignty. The goal was to reduce if not eliminate dependency on public assistance, to reconnect his people to their own tribes for their language and cultural education and to provide resources for other Indigenous people whose tribes are not near their Fresno County homes.
While working to build an independent network of support for the Fresno County Indigenous community, he frequently found that negative self image and violence against Indigenous women and girls as a major factor in the destruction of Indigenous lives. He found it difficult to garner support for federal recognition from non-Indigenous Fresno County residents and from lifelong politicians. The reason was the lack of respect for his people as human beings. There was one slur that regularly came up during meetings and presentations he was requesting assistance with recognition, Squaw. I was then he realized that his people would never be respected or taken seriously in their quest for federal recognition as long as they were allowing their ancestral home to be named after a slur. And so began his quest to rename Squaw Valley.
You can keep up with our efforts to Rename Squaw Valley, Fresno County on our Facebook page and on the Rename Squaw Valley website.