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Commissioners decline to act on Dead Indian Memorial Road

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners decided this morning to postpone further action on the potential renaming of Dead Indian Memorial Road.

The board received a report this week from the county Roads and Parks Department summarizing comments from the community on whether to rename the road. The board decided not to set a vote on the issue because it said the amount of input received was too small to be representative of the entire county.

John Vial, director of the county's Roads and Parks Department, said 93 percent of the responses that came in from identifiable sources were in favor of changing the name, with a tally of 188 to 14. Among the people who live on Dead Indian Memorial Road, Vial said, it was 11 for the change, 10 against.

"No matter what you do, you will not have a perfect situation," he told commissioners. "Leaving it the same will upset a bunch of people. Changing it will upset a bunch of people."

Commissioners Colleen Roberts and Bob Strosser both expressed concern about the size of the response compared with the overall population of Jackson County.

"It's not a very significant for or against in the context of the totality of our population," Roberts said.

Commissioner Rick Dyer said the issue wasn't one that necessarily merited thinking in a majority-vote sense.

"Our job is to represent the people of this county, but it's also to represent this county," Dyer said, noting that some people in favor of the name change say the road's name represents the county poorly to visitors. He proposed that the commissioners consider dropping the word "Dead" from Dead Indian Memorial Road, to preserve the history tied to the name while also removing what some see as the most offensive word.

Roberts said she wondered whether a future board of commissioners would have to respond to outcry over the word "Indian" if it remained in the name. Some Oregon tribes use the word to refer to themselves, but others do not.

"Nationwide, in my opinion, political correctness is kind of a movement," she said, adding that she thought it important to preserve history. "To remember, not to relive — or repeat."

Strosser said requests to change the road were "heartfelt," but he added he was "uncomfortable with making a decision with that little response."

Name-change advocates David Hyde and Keely Meagan, who attended the staff meeting where the issue was set aside by the commissioners, were disappointed in the lack of action.

"The people most impacted by the name should be consulted," Meagan said, referring to confederated tribes of Native Americans. "This name made busloads of children cry."

When asked if the commissioner's decision was the end of the issue for him, however, Hyde responded quickly.

"Absolutely not," he said.

— Reach reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or ktornay@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter at www. twitter.com/ka_tornay.

Public comments on changing the name of Dead Indian Memorial Road by Mail Tribune on Scribd

The name of Dead Indian Memorial Road will not be changed in the near future, following a decision Thursday by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. [Mail Tribune file photo]