MEDFORD, Ore. — At a work session on Tuesday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners discussed a new request to change the names of several local landmarks that include the "Dead Indian" moniker, a perennial controversy in the area.
Most previous discussions on the topic have revolved around a name change for Dead Indian Memorial Road, which runs from Ashland to Highway 140 near Lake of the Woods. Up until 1993, the name was "Dead Indian Road" — but a push to change the name ended with the addition of "Memorial."
According to a preface from county administrator Danny Jordan at Tuesday's meeting, the new request does not directly concern the road, but instead identifies three nearby geographic locations — Dead Indian Creek, Dead Indian Soda Springs, and Dead Indian Mountain.
The proposal suggests renaming those landmarks to "Latgawa," the name for a Native American people who populated areas of southwest Oregon before European settlers ultimately killed, captured, or relocated them during a series of conflicts in the 1850s, along with the neighboring Takelma people.
Jordan indicated that the County does not have the power to unilaterally change those landmark names, but could provide input on the proposal — either supporting, opposing, or refraining from comment.
"The use of the term 'Dead Indian,' specifically with regard to Dead Indian Memorial Road, has been an issue brought before [the Board of Commissioners] about every three or four years," Jordan said. "I know in the past the Board has communicated directly with Native American people with regard to the use of the term Dead Indian Memorial, and they have opposed changing that."
The commissioners said that they intended to consult with the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribal Board for input on the proposed name change before Thursday, where they would discuss the issue again.
Commissioner Colleen Roberts expressed skepticism about supporting a change to the landmark names when Dead Indian Memorial Road has not been similarly renamed, despite a push to do so in 2017. According to Roberts, the Cow Creek Tribe signaled opposition to changing Dead Indian Memorial Road when they were last consulted on the topic.
Contemporary accounts claim that the name for the Dead Indian landmarks derived from an incident in which settlers discovered the bodies of two Native Americans in dwellings near a creek, which the settlers ultimately named after the discovery.