The Road Formerly Known as Dead Indian is once again in the news, this time because vandals apparently offended by the revised "Dead Indian Memorial" name have taken to painting out "Dead" on road signs. And the Jackson County commissioners are scheduled to take up another renaming proposal next month.
The new proposal essentially would validate the vandals' version, making it "Indian Memorial Road." Indian tribes including the Cow Creek, Siletz and Grand Ronde have agreed that would be an improvement.
For the record, the name dates back to about 1854, when white settlers found the bodies of two deceased Rogue River Indians in an abandoned wigwam near a then unnamed creek. It was thought they had been killed by rival Klamath Indians. The creek was named Dead Indian, and the road later took that name as well.
In 1993, county commissioners changed the name to Dead Indian Memorial Road, seeking a less offensive moniker. Now that, too, is deemed offensive by some.
But "Indian Memorial Road" seems a bit clunky. Oregon Geographic Names, the go-to reference in this state, includes an entry for "Indian Beach" in Clatsop County, named for a spot where the Tillamook tribe cast their dead into the surf in canoes. It was called "memaloose illahe," Chinook jargon for "place of the dead."
Maybe the road should be changed to “Memaloose Illahe Road.” Or, to honor a more local tribe, perhaps someone could ask Agnes Baker Pilgrim for an appropriate word or words in the Takelma tongue.