By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Name changes that recalibrate history

Columbus Day remains a federal holiday (second Monday in October), but Columbus School is ending its 131-year life in McMinnville.

We’ve joined communities nationwide that have eliminated “Columbus” from names of schools and other landmarks, citing mistreatment of indigenous people by explorer Christopher Columbus in his voyages to the Caribbean and Central America. Besides, Vikings explored parts of North America centuries earlier than — as the old poem says — “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

McMinnville’s original Columbus School was built along Cozine Creek in 1892, exactly 400 years after the first Columbus voyage. It was replaced in 1930 with a new building, which was damaged beyond repair by the 1993 Scotts Mills earthquake. Today’s Columbus School was built on Fellows Street for reopening in 1995. reports this about Columbus: “There are three main sources of controversy involving his interactions with the Indigenous people he labeled ‘Indians’: the use of violence and slavery, the forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and the introduction of a host of new diseases that would have dramatic long-term effects on native people in the Americas. In an era in which the international slave trade was starting to grow, Columbus and his men enslaved many native inhabitants of the West Indies and subjected them to extreme violence and brutality.”

Still, our national capital city of Washington is part of the Territory of Columbia, later renamed District of Columbia. Thus, Washington, D.C., retains name connection to Christopher Columbus.

In recent years, many derogatory words and historic names have been stripped from historic uses: Last year, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed names of 650 geographic features using the word “squaw”; U.S. military branches are in the process of renaming bases that honored figures of the Confederacy.

Some jurisdictions even are abandoning Washington and Lincoln names, among others, due to circumstantial transgressions viewed through the prisms of today’s values. That movement has become an element of today’s co-called culture wars, described in a 2022 article in “The American Conservative” titled, “Woke Name Changes Are Just Bad Ethics: This is narcissistic, self-destructive, and inimical to societal preservation.”

Honoring history definitely can be a slippery slope. For example, I found an interesting article on entitled, “25 Legendary Historical Heroes Who Did Unspeakable Things.”

We can continue to debate the use of names that recognize and celebrate historic figures, but meanwhile, in keeping with this week’s news story, it’s “Goodbye, Columbus; hello, Willamette” in McMinnville.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


Don Dix

So Jeb, on a 'windy' day in Oct. 1962, we watched an entire orchard fall, roofs blown off, and anything not tied down strewn throughout neighborhoods. It was a cat 3 and the one of the worst to hit the Northwest on record. Needless to say we were fascinated with it's destructive power.
It was dubbed the Columbus Day Storm simply because it occurred on that national holiday, but the woke society wants to cancel every little piece of history that offends them (note; it seems everything offends them).

Now when referencing, I submit that event should be called 'the big-ass rain/windstorm that blew everbody's sh*t everywhere' -- OK?


It must be quite an inconvenience to talk about an Oregon wind storm that happened 60+ years ago without referencing Columbus….I think “woke society” will let you invoke his name when you reminisce about that memorable day!

Don Dix

You are quite mistaken -- you have no clue what is 'inconvenient' to anyone but yourself (only a guess) -- and to contend permission might be required to say or write 'cancelled anything' by a malcontent state of mind? The 1st amendment of the Constitution begs to differ.

Jeb Bladine


I'm entering this fray only because that day in 1962, I stood in my backyard just three houses away from yours and watched our corrugated plastic patio roof ripped off the posts and fly over the roof of the house behind us. So I just wanted to congratulate you on remembering anything that long ago!

And by the way, lest we forget, in 2021 the Oregon Legislature changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Don Dix

eb -- I also remember the task of neighborhood cleanup the next few days, as you should. Dragging branches, picking up wood, metal, and plastic torn to shreds, garbage everywhere, as well as the roof of the high school gym roof being destroyed -- the basketball court looked like ocean ground swells.

Most of the debris was dumped on a vacant lot owned by Jack Squires @ what is now the new police department building. Time will tell if that building will suffer subsidence in the future.

Don Dix

Sorry -- Jeb


Can't wait for the robots to rewrite every digital book so we can finally call wxmen by their proper name: "uterus-havers".


The Stanford "Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative" is where this is headed. Just wait - "American" is one of the terms viewed as offensive and recommended for removal from our vocabulary.

Mac Runner

Don - The only reason we honor Columbus today is because 100 years ago some politicians thought it would be a good idea to create an origin myth that gave italians a bigger part in America’s origin story because the klan and other white supremacists didn’t want those “dark dirty foreigners” here. The many never came to the United States and his main claim to fame is that his is the founder of the transatlantic slave trade. He committed genocide and he made most of his money selling children. Why is it important for you to honor him today because 100 years ago some politicians thought it would be a good idea? Are there any other mass murdering human traffickers with no real connection to the United States that you feel ii’s important to honor?

Don Dix

Mac Runner wrote -- Why is it important for you to honor him today because 100 years ago some politicians thought it would be a good idea?

Seriously? Could you point out precisely where you found that in my submission?

Mac Runner

Don - Pretty sure you, yourself pointed out that FDR was the President who chose to honor Columbus. You should read up on that history. FDR extended the privileges of white America to Italian immigrants largely as a response to white supremacist racism they faced. Part of that was economic, like allowing Italian immigrants to benefit from the GI bill (unlike blacks or native Americans who also served). Part of it was social and propaganda. Like honoring Columbus, which was how state and local governments showed that Italians were always part of the American fabric. But, the history Americans were taught, usually when the are too young to do anything but accept it as the gospel truth, is a lie.

A country that rejects human trafficking, mass murder and supremacist ideologies has no business honoring Columbus because the core of what he did was genocide and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of people in the west indies.

He didn't discover anything. People already lived here. He wasn't even the first European to come to the Americas, that was Leif Erickson, who actually set foot in North America and did it hundreds of years earlier.

Don Dix

Mac Runner -- I did point out, in a different article, how the US calendar added Columbus Day. And that Oregon named a storm for that day (and in this article, even offered a suggestion for a new name). But aside from portraying the local effect of the actual storm, once again, I wrote nothing about 'the importance of honoring Columbus'.

Mac Runner

Don - What you were doing is complaining in the comments of both threads about it being “cancelled” and tried to suggest that the people who care about it shouldn’t care bc it was signed into law by FDR. Now you’re equivocating about it. Seemed important enough for you to comment.

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