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Three Corvallis Schools Dump Presidential Namesakes For BIPOC Figures

Smoke Signals newspaper; Wikipedia; Friends of Letitia Carson

For the first time in its history, the Corvallis School District has three schools named for BIPOC individuals.

Last year, the Corvallis School Board approved a resolution to have three elementary schools drop the names of U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover. All three have pasts involving slavery or racism.

In the interim, the schools were called Jaguar, Wildcat, and Husky. Following the board's latest actions, the schools are now named for Bessie Coleman, the first Black and Indigenous woman to get a pilot’s license; Letitia Carson, a Black woman who claimed land in Oregon despite state laws at the time; and Kathryn Jones Harrison of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde who’s advocated for the restoration of tribal statuses and lands, and education.     

“There’s a really strong tie to this area,” said Luhui Whitebear, co-chair of the Corvallis School Board and a Native American of Coastal Chumash heritage. “And with the local schools, so that’s one of the reasons why her being chosen was so significant. Also just the work she has done throughout her life.”

“Kathryn Harrison is an astounding woman that has been a steadfast advocate for her Tribe and her Tribal People,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. 

“The Corvallis School Board’s decision to change Jaguar Elementary to Kathryn Jones Harrison Elementary is an important acknowledgement of this amazing woman and her tribal ancestors who once called these lands home.”

Among the influences cited for the name change was the Black Lives Matter movement.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.