'Dead Indian Memorial' is disrespectful

Editor's Note: This is in response to Sunday's Mail Tribune editorial.

After seeing print and television coverage of Jackson County’s request for citizen input on this road’s name, my intention was to either attend the publicized October 11 hearing, or send comments in support of a name change. As things turned out, I did not act until after watching a late October RVTV rerun of the Oct. 11 hearing. After listening to the numerous articulate and heartfelt supporters of a name change, not the least of which was a local Native American leader, I sent an email supporting a name change.

I moved to the Rogue Valley in 1974. At that time this road's name struck me as being somewhat startling and odd, but then accepted it for the most part. In the early 1990s the discussion of a name change came up in earnest. By then my opinion had evolved to where the subsequent addition of "Memorial" without the removal of "Dead" did virtually nothing, in my mind, to lessen the name’s disrespect for Native Americans. That the current name has brought Native American children to tears should by itself be reason enough for Jackson County commissioners to take action.

That of the 202 citizens who spoke or wrote on the issue, 188 favored a name change speaks loudly. These citizens felt strongly enough to take time to show up at the hearing or to write comments. Opposition was light, perhaps because those numbers are a reflection of the level of opposition.

What is the evidence of opposition that the commissioners are relying on to not proceed with a process of considering alternative road names? I like to think that the proportion of Jackson County residents (and visitors) who are open to the idea of considering new names could well be in line with these favorable numbers.

The current name is not respectful. As others in favor of a name change have often asked, how would it be to refer to others who have passed, relatives or not, as "(my or his/her/their) dead (fill in the blank)"?

As a veteran who never went to war, but is grateful to all who did, it is both a sobering reminder, and uplifting, to see road names that are memorials, such as Oregon's Interstate-5 being the "Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway." What would the reaction be if instead its name were the "Dead Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway"? Dead Indian Memorial Road is no less disrespectful. I am a history enthusiast, and offer that a name change will add the next chapter, leaving intact all recorded aspects of this road’s past.

Fortunately, enough citizens have over time kept the prospects of the name change alive, and they are certain to press on until this road’s name is respectful.

— Bob Rasmussen lives in Ashland.

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