GUEST VIEWPOINT: What is in a name?
ALI launches project to establish Kalapuya County
Following up on a proposal published in June 2020 as an op-ed in The Register-Guard by Executive Director, Richard Pettigrew, Eugene nonprofit Archaeological Legacy Institute is organizing an effort to broaden public appreciation of the deep and diverse history of the local area. Notably, this includes a bid to change the name of Lane County to "Kalapuya County." This action also follows up a 2020 petition letter to the Lane County Commissioners that was written by two prominent local Kalapuya descendants, Esther Stutzman and historian David Lewis, that was to the same effect.
This initiative has thus far taken the form of an online petition on Change.org titled “Renaming Our Home: Kalapuya County,” and it requests that Lane County Commissioners take steps to make the name change. Another element of the project is the launch of a fundraiser on July 18 through A Community Thrives, part of Gannett Foundation (Gannett is the owner of The Register-Guard and USA TODAY NETWORK).
Many people in the area feel that the namesake for Lane County, Joseph Lane, is not an appropriate person to memorialize. His history, in key ways, runs counter to our vision of ourselves. Importantly, this is not really about rejecting a historical figure who always will remain part of our story, but instead, it is about creating a better future for all of us.
The “Establishing Kalapuya County” project includes the important goal to rename the county, but much more than that, it serves to connect our place and our people with a human past that predates Euro-American settlers by at least 15,000 years. Renaming this place Kalapuya County represents a purposeful shift in our historical narrative that shows a desire to emphasize Kalapuya culture and history while creating a more welcoming community for Native people and all minorities.
Other actions envisioned by the project include the following:
• Organizing a corps of volunteers to assist with the work
• Investigating actions needed to rename the county, which will include approval by the electorate for a change to the county charter
• Exploring ramifications and consequences of renaming the county (e.g., what about Lane Community College?)
• Securing legal and lobbying help to bring about the name change
• Compiling Kalapuya place names, putting them on the map, and using them publicly
• Exploring options for changing some place names to their original Kalapuya place names (such as “Champ-a-te” for Spencer Butte and “Ya-po-ah” for Skinner Butte)
• Employing the Kalapuya vocabulary as much as possible in statements, publicity, and documents
• Encouraging schools and teachers to include Kalapuya culture in their curricula
• Creating and distributing documents about Kalapuya history, culture, lifeways, and prehistory for the public
• Promoting the commissioning of a statue in Eugene honoring our Kalapuya forbears
The fundraiser to support this project follows a prescribed format established by Gannett. The fundraising period runs from July 18 to August 12. When a minimum of $3000 is raised, ALI becomes eligible for up to $100,000 in a project grant from the Gannett Foundation, plus an operating grant, and even bonus grants determined by the number of donors and the amount raised per week. Archaeologychannel.org/kalapuya is the fundraiser link. Archaeologychannel.org/petition is the link to the petition. More information is available on The Archaeology Channel (archaeologychannel.org).
Archaeological Legacy Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Eugene, OR that works to share human cultural heritage widely through the use of cutting-edge media technology. ALI’s principal project is The Archaeology Channel (archaeologychannel.org), a streaming-media website featuring video and audio programs on archaeology, indigenous peoples, and cultural heritage that reaches an audience of 250,000 visitors monthly. ALI, on January 1, 2021, launched a subscription video-on-demand platform, Heritage Broadcasting Service (heritagetac.org), which now includes hundreds of premium titles.