Measure B would clarify Fresno county name change duties. Here are pros and cons

Fresno County voters will see Measure B on their March primary election ballot. It will ask voters to change the county charter to add language that would clarify the Fresno County Board of Supervisors’ role in changing the names of unincorporated county places.

The ballot measure is part of a bigger local battle over who should be able to initiate community name changes, particularly after a group of community activists filed a formal name change request to federal authorities to change the name of the unincorporated Fresno County community to Yokuts Valley from Squaw Valley. The name change request came shortly after Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally declared in 2021 that the term “squaw,” widely considered a slur against Native women, a derogatory term and ordered it removed nationwide.

Last year, Fresno County sued California over a 2022 state law that removed the term “squaw” from geographic features and place names in the state. A judge threw out the lawsuit, saying the county lacked the standing to sue the state as a political subdivision of the state. The County is appealing the decision.

Supporters of Measure B say the issue is about local control, but opponents say the county is ignoring state law through the measure.

How does Measure B read on the ballot?

Shall the measure to add new subdivision (f) to section 12 of the Fresno County Charter to provide the Fresno County Board of Supervisors the duty and power to name or change the name of geographic features or place names within the unincorporated portions of the County of Fresno be adopted?

Yes on Measure B

Supporters of the measure, Fresno County Supervisors Nathan Magsig and Steve Brandau, say:

Local control is threatened daily by state and federal government. Recently there have been attempts to change the names of schools, communities, streets and lakes without the consent of those who live, work and are directly impacted by these decisions.

Since the founding of Fresno County, in 1856, the naming of geographical areas was performed by residents and their elected local government. A yes vote on this charter amendment affirms this process.

This charter amended, if passed, will send a clear message to the Board of Supervisors, Sacramento and Washington; the voters of Fresno County want decisions related to name changes to remain at the local level.

Voting Yes on this charter amendment keeps the power of naming areas, with the local voters of Fresno County.

No on Measure B

Opponents to the measure – which include Democratic Assemblymembers James C. Ramos of San Bernardino, Joaquin Arambula of Fresno, state Sen. Anna Caballero of Merced, League of Women Voters of Fresno and Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley– say:

This Measure will reverse the renaming of Squaw Valley to Yokuts Valley, which violates state law!

The first Native American Secretary of the Interior declared that the term “Sq__” was offensive and derogatory, and in 2023, the word “Sq__” was removed from nearly 650 places ACROSS AMERICA, including Fresno’s “Sq__” Valley.

California’s first Native American Assemblymember James Ramos authored AB 2022 to remove “Sq__” from all California place names by 2025. This state law passed with a unanimous vote of both houses of the legislature.

When Fresno County filed a lawsuit claiming that AB violated residents’ rights, the Judge recognized that “the term ‘squaw’ is considered, racist, sexist and offensive to many people, and so used the term “Sq__” instead.

We are deeply opposed to this measure for many reasons:

  • For decades, Native Americans have argued against the use of the word “Sq__”, which perpetuates prejudice and disparages Native women

  • California has moved beyond the days when willful ignorance of native peoples prevailed. Words matter. Offensive slurs are not protected speech.

  • The renaming of “Sq__ Valley” was decided by the rules we have in place, after two years of extensive local public input that prioritized local Native American opinions.

  • The County now wants to ignore state law, which will result in costly and needless litigation that we will all pay for.

Vote NO. Honor and respect the opinions of all Native Americans who have lived in the Valley for generations.