The Jackson County Board of Commissioners decided Thursday morning to postpone further action on the potential renaming of Dead Indian Memorial Road.
The board received a report this week put together by the county Roads and Parks Department summarizing comments from the community on whether to rename the road. While divided over whether to take action, but the board decided not to set a vote on the issue because it said that 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 of the responses received that came from identifiable residents within the county, 93 percent 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 almost exactly a 50-50 split.
"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 country 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 if 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 the requests to change the road were "heartfelt," but 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter at www. twitter.com/ka_tornay.