The City of Corvallis is renaming its community center after local Native Americans said the current name is culturally insensitive. It’s called the “Chintimini Senior and Community Center.” Chintinimi is a Kalapuya word and the center has had that name for decades.
Amid a massive renovation project, the city decided to reach out to Native Americans to see what they thought of the name. Their response: Maybe don’t use that word.
James Mellein, assistant director of Corvallis Parks and Recreation, said it’s a spiritual term often associated with mountains. “And they felt that naming a building after that word was not in alignment with what they would want that word to be used for,” he said.
According to some sources, "Chintimini" is the Anglicized version of the Native American name for Mary's Peak, the 4,097 foot mountain near Corvallis that is the highest point in the Coast Range. Using a misspelled version of the original Kalapuya word "can be perceived as disrespectful of the language," according to an explanation on the city's website.
The leading contenders for a new name include the words Sunstone or Oakwood. Sunstone is the official gemstone of Oregon, designated thus by the 1987 Oregon legislature, according to the Oregon Blue Book. The word "Oakwood" is a nod to the oak trees that line the park next to the center.
The city has surveyed residents and taken public comments on what the center should be named. The decision will ultimately be made by the Corvallis City Council.
One thing seems to be certain: The word "senior" will not appear in the new name. "Our 50, 60, 70-year old participants don't see themselves as seniors," said Mellein. "Coming to a center that is titled 'Senior Center' is actually a barrier to some people engaging in the programs and services that the community center offers."
The center is currently undergoing a renovation and expansion project that has the building closed until next spring. When it re-opens, it will have both a new name and more room. "All of our programs are busting at the seams," said Mellein. "A lot of our fitness classes have a waitlist because we don't have the room in the facility itself currently to serve everybody that would like to be a part of it."
Some of the center's programs are still being offered while the building is closed. The city has a schedule on its website.
The name "Chintimini" will live on, however, as a local wildlife rehabilitation center as well as a music festival bear the name.