For Mary Sanagan, giving out the address for her new home on Squaw Valley Crescent in Creekside is often an embarrassing exercise.
“Usually, honestly, I apologize after I say it when I’m talking to anybody,” Sanagan said with a laugh.
“The word is undeniably an ethnic slur. Like, I wince every time I have to say it … I’m surprised this is still a conversation.”
Sanagan is far from the first to raise the issue.
The last time it was broached, council was receptive to finding a new name, with Mayor Jack Crompton suggesting the local First Nations be involved in the renaming process (see Pique, Aug. 19, 2019: “Is Whistler’s Squaw Valley Crescent going to get a new name?”).
In the past, officials have pointed out many street names in Whistler are named after past Olympic hosts—in this case, the 1960 Olympic Winter Games hosted by Squaw Valley, Calif.
But with officials of that resort now exploring a name change themselves, the time has come to make the change in Whistler.
At the July 7 council meeting, Crompton will introduce a resolution to begin the process of renaming the street.
“This is a conversation we’ve been having with the Nations for some time. I’m grateful for their partnership and leadership moving forward,” Crompton said, adding that the actual logistics of changing the name—from the legalities, to the impact on residents and the process of finding a new name—will be explored through the resolution (if it’s successful).
“That’s part of the resolution, is to begin the process and return to us with that information,” Crompton said, adding that he “expects and hopes” that residents of the street will have input.
The announcement comes on the heels of the adoption of Whistler’s “historic” Official Community Plan and a corresponding Framework Agreement (see page 15), which place a strong focus on reconciliation with the local Lil’wat and Squamish Nations.
“Reconciliation isn’t something you just talk about, it’s something that you do, and this is certainly one step in that very long journey,” Crompton said.
“Naming says something about what we value, and making changes like this make a statement about our values, in my opinion.”
For Sanagan, and others who have asked that the name be changed over the years, the resolution would be welcomed.
“I’d be very happy, and proud of our mayor and town council to make that decision,” Sanagan said.
“This should be part of our reconciliation process that we have with the Nations, and we should involve [them]. We’re lucky enough to have the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre here in town, why not engage them in a dialogue on the new name?”