Twin Cities Times
The plan to give Sir Francis Drake High School a “more ethical name” hit a snag last week.
The school’s administration and teachers had already torn down the name Drake from school signage and temporarily declared itself HS 1327 (the street address of the school). And an administration-facilitated student group had spent months coming up potential new names and a much criticized voting system.
It all came down to either Olema Trail or Bon Tempe. A decision was to be announced on April 1, a date not lost on critics of the name changing process.
The student website touted Olema Trail as a good name for the high school because it would help “minoritized people” feel better and it “holds great cultural and historical significance to the indigenous peoples who once inhabited Marin.”
But the descendents of Marin’s indigenous peoples wanted no part of the renaming process. At least not now.
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria dropped a bombshell on the predominantly white public school when it told the school it was uncomfortable with the Olema Trail name. Use of the name for the high school would co-opt the Miwok language.
The school’s website explained it this way:
“Thank you for your patience, input, and involvement with our name change at HS 1327/Drake. We understand this has been a long process, but we believe it is important to take the steps needed to gather information, listen to all the members of our community, and follow the process we have set to guide us through each step.
“Part of this process is to be inclusive of certain groups in our community that need to have their voice heard to ensure we are not further minoritizing members of our community. To this end, we are grateful for both the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria for their guidance and insights into possible names. The aid from both groups has provided us with learning that we embrace as an educational community. It is for this reason, that the DLC/Site Council has decided to not consider the nominated name, Olema Trail. The representatives of the Tribal Government do not support the use of a Miwok name or word as part of a school name at this time. They invited us to enter into consultation if we wished to use an indiginous or tribal name for our school. We are grateful for their insights and will respect the request. The Site Council decided on Friday not to pursue an indiginous name for the school.
“The next DLC/Site Council meeting on April 1, 2021 has been postponed until further notice. We will reconvene after spring break. Thank you for following us through this interesting and learning-rich experience.”
So, the last name standing is Bon Tempe, the name of a lake in Marin which is derived from a bastardized spelling of the last name of an early dairy farm family, the Bautunpi family. The school’s renaming committee recommends that the school mascot be the rattlesnake, the raccoon or the deer/bucks.
The school’s website says it is unknown if the school committee will adopt Bon Tempe as the school’s name, start over or do something completely different.
Either way, the naming process has stirred up consternation with alumni of the school who say the decision to deep-six the Drake name was ill-advised and the alumni and community have largely been left out of the process.
District Superintendent Tara Taupier is scheduled to appear at the Tamalpais Union High School District meeting at 6 p.m. April 13 to explain the turn of events.
One Drake alumni posting on a Facebook board said he was “confused, tired and a little annoyed” by the process and the failure of the district and the school to clearly communicate. “As reported to me by an involved member, the school has delayed the vote on the final two names three different times, without posting updates on their website.”
Trustees of the school district will ultimately make the decision of whether to change the name from Drake and, if so, what the new name will be.
Critics of the process also claim that the school administrators decided from the start to eliminate retaining Drake as the name of the school. The committee was not allowed to let Drake compete in the voting process.