Dustup over Naming of Yokuts Valley

Dustup over Naming of Yokuts Valley
The official new name of the former S— Valley is Yokuts Valley, although Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig continues to mislead residents by using the former name. Photo by Bob McCloskey

It’s the beginning of 2023, and already we’re having a dustup over the new name of Yokuts Valley.

But first the good news: On Feb. 2, CalTrans took down two official green highway signs that displayed the discontinued name of S— Valley (with population info). These removals were the first in a series of concrete moves by the state to eventually enforce AB 2022, the law that gets rid of “squaw” from nearly 100 place names in California.

On Feb. 7, also pursuant to AB 2022, a work crew from Fresno County removed the large 8x6 foot unofficial “Welcome to S— Valley” sign that had stood on Highway 180 in front of the Bear Mountain Library, which is located on Fresno County–owned land.

Now for the melancholy news: Supervisor Nathan Magsig, one of five Fresno County supervisors, directed a County crew to reinstall the sign, which they did on Feb. 9.

Magsig described his position in a video on his official Facebook page on Feb. 7, where he expressed concern that “signs are disappearing in the area.” He went on to say on a private Facebook page for the area that “residents should be aware that ‘S— Valley’ signs have been the new target for vandalism/removal” (Feb. 9). As we are unaware of any unauthorized “vandalism/removal” of signs, we consider this to be not only false but also inflammatory.

Magsig’s action was a flagrant violation of AB 2022, which specifically prohibits repairing or restoring signs having “squaw” in the name. Here is text excerpted from the law enacted on Sept. 23, 2022:

  • The term “squaw” is a racist and derogatory term that has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for indigenous women.
  • No geographic feature or place name in the State of California should have a name that includes racial and sexual slurs and stereotypes targeting Native Americans.
  • A public agency shall no longer replace any sign, interpretive marker or any other marker or printed material with the discontinued name containing the word “squaw.”

Supervisor Magsig and the other supervisors must be held accountable to comply with the law.

Magsig’s actions fit a larger pattern. For the past two years, his agenda has been to block the renaming effort. Magsig refused to meet personally with Roman Rain Tree, the local Indigenous activist who began this initiative. Moreover, Magsig refused to hold public hearings on the matter—except for one belatedly and hastily called on Sept. 20, 2022, at the Bear Mountain Library’s outdoor pavilion.

At that Bear Mountain Library meeting, the so-called town hall lacked the slightest semblance of civility or decorum. Magsig acted as moderator. For more than an hour, Magsig allowed an overwhelmingly white crowd to verbally abuse and shout down Rain Tree. It was beyond disgraceful.

Some in the crowd were caught on camera making threats against Rain Tree’s life. Had six or so sheriff’s deputies not been present the meeting could easily have turned violent. What happened that night was a total repudiation of the Board of Supervisors’ Guiding Principles, which include “to work for an improvement of life for all,” “to respect all viewpoints” and “to respect cultural and ethnic diversity.”

Shortly after the Bear Mountain Library fiasco, Magsig sent a bogus, unscientific “ballot” (the term “ballot” falsely implying a legitimate election) to 1,400 households in the 93675 zip code. He asked for their opinion, with “no name change” as the first option, misleading readers into the false hope that they could keep the discontinued S— Valley name.

Furthermore, Magsig encouraged those who opposed the name change to photocopy the “ballot” and mail back as many responses “as needed” (amounting to ballot box stuffing). After his office collated responses to the bogus survey, Magsig publicly declared that “87% of the respondents opposed the name change,” falsely implying that those respondents represented the whole area.

Rain Tree and other Indigenous activists have shown extraordinary grace and courage to stand up to Magsig’s bullying and say in effect: “Enough with the denigration. Enough with the insults. Enough with the racist slurs. Enough with the threats. Enough with white supremacy. Let’s try to live in harmony with each other.”

But now the Residents for Renaming S— Valley are left to wonder:

How is the State of California and the federal government going to respond to this obvious and hateful defiance?

How soon will the U.S. Postal Service act to assign Yokuts Valley to the 93675 zip code?

How long will it take for government databases and databases that depend on government databases (e.g., weather, maps, banks, insurance companies and the DMV) to be populated with the correct information about Yokuts Valley?

And will the State of California and the federal government just let Magsig get away with thumbing his nose at the law with no consequences?

The Board of Supervisors is hostile to the name change. Magsig is trying to subvert the law. Given this active resistance, might it not be prudent for state and/or federal agencies to do something to cool things down—like putting together information packets that explain what has happened and why? And that counter misinformation and disinformation about what the name change means for the residents?

Might it not be prudent for the state to install security cameras to catch any vandals who attempt to deface or steal the new Yokuts Valley signs?

And might it not be prudent for state officials to let Magsig and the other supervisors know, publicly, and in no uncertain terms, that they intend to enforce the law?


  • Bayard Taylor

    Bayard Taylor is a resident of the 93675 zip code, a nature lover, the author of two books, a former English teacher and a master of divinity graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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Douglas Bence
Douglas Bence
1 year ago

I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you, that this Supervisor’s bio on the Fresno County site makes it clear that he is from a good, Christian family, and is committed to serving others. Why does this so often turn out to be empty sloganeering from people who bang their drum so loudly to profess their morality? Also, the Fresno County site still lists “Squaw Valley ” as being part of his district.

Judith Parker
Judith Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Douglas Bence

Great COMMENT! I’m just as shocked but certainly not surprised at the MAGAIDIOT MAGSICK is exactly like ALL REPUKES, effin HYPOCRITES!

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