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Friday, July 19, 2024
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Activists Appeal to State Committee to Compel Fort Bragg Name Change—Governing Agency Says It Can’t Happen

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A historical postcard of a California State Park Commission Plaque commemorating Fort Bragg

Change Our Name Fort Bragg went public this weekend with its intention to petition California’s Advisory Committee on Geographic Names to change the Mendocino coastal town’s name, which they decry for its evocation of “genocide, extreme violence, and structural racism of white supremacy.”

There is one problem with their plan: these name change committees cannot change the name of incorporated communities. 

Gina Anderson, a Public Affairs Specialist with the United State Board of Geographic Names (BGN), told us that her organization’s “authority to name or rename places applies only to natural features, as well as reservoirs, canals, channels, and unincorporated communities.”

Anderson went on to say, “Any decision to rename the City of Fort Bragg would be made by the city government, presumably requiring an amendment to its legal charter.  The BGN would not be asked to vote on the matter but would simply record the change.”

California’s Advisory Committee on Geographic Names (CACGN) is charged with forwarding California-specific, name change recommendations to the United States Board on Geographic Names, which according to the CACGN charter has “the ultimate authority for determining each name change proposal.” 

This means that even if California’s name change honchos were to recommend Fort Bragg change its name, as a Federal representative told us, a review board would deny it and punt the question back to the City of Fort Bragg which already went through a contentious, rigorous review of the question in 2020.

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The City of Fort Bragg established a commission to consider the name change after the murder of George Floyd. Change Our Name advocates held that Fort Bragg’s name is a “continuation of the national racial reckoning in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and includes the removal of Confederate statues from public places.”

After a year of consideration, 60 hours of meetings, and an informal survey of nearly 7,000 residents, the City of Fort Bragg’s commission opted to not issue a “yes” or “no”. One commissioner said. “As a commission, we came to the conclusion that, at this time, because the citizens are so divided, this commission cannot unanimously recommend a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

More recently, the name change activists set their sights on the Fort Bragg Unified School District advocating that school leaders and trustees scrub “Fort Bragg” from the name of the city’s schools.

At an April 20, 2023 school board meeting, members of the public expressed concern this committee could result in a small body unilaterally approving the removal of “Fort Bragg” from local schools without input from the community at large.

In response to pressure from the name change activists, the Fort Bragg Unified School District issued an official statement on May 17, 2023, that read, 

“we do not think it is in the interests of our students and community members to consider a change (of school names) in isolation. It is evident that any such consideration will only bring division to our community and detract from our mission of delivering exceptional, engaging, equitable, and collaborative learning opportunities for all students.”

John S. Lushenko and Rus Jewett, organizing members of Save Our Town’s Name, an advocacy group fighting to retain Fort Bragg’s name, told us, “The significant level of support indicated by Save Our Name Fort Bragg, with a larger number of supporters (846) compared to CON’s reported 162, as well as our over 3,000 supportive signatures on our SON petitions, demonstrates the concerns and sentiments of community members, who are advocating for retaining the name Fort Bragg.”

From what Lushenko and Jewett believe, “the majority of Fort Bragg residents, who wish to keep the name of the town of Fort Bragg California should be recognized, honored, and respected. It’s not up to any one member or group to be allowed to change the town’s name.”

It should be noted after nearly three years of advocacy, name change activists have not attempted to bring the issue to a municipal ballot instead pressuring municipal and government groups to weigh in.

Fundamentally, Change Our Name advocates argue both “Fort” and “Bragg” are words rooted in historical wrongs. 

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The area of Fort Bragg was christened in 1857 as Mendocino County’s first military post. Troops were garrisoned in the area supervising the Mendocino Indian Reservation. The word Fort, name change advocates argue, conjures the subjugation and genocide of local native tribes.

“Bragg” stands as a nod to Confederate General Braxton Bragg, which the name change advocates argue is Mendocino County’s homage to the Lost Cause and the white supremacy it represents. It is worth noting, the name Fort Bragg was named in 1857, four years before the Civil War began.

Name change activists argue their grievances with the name “Fort Bragg” align with the spirit of Assembly Bill 2022, brought forward by Assembly James Ramos, the first Native American to serve in the California House of Representatives and prolific advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The legislation required the word “squaw”, an English word that often is used as an ethnic and sexual slur against Native American women, be removed from all of California’s geographic names by January 2025.

This legislation influenced the recent name change of the prominent landmark between Cloverdale and Hopland long known as Squaw Rock. Officially dubbed Frog Woman Rock in March of this year, the name change stands as an example of Assembly Bill 2022 coming to fruition.


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36 COMMENTS

  1. I’m down to say a new name, and I’m down to call this land mass that we are on Turtle Island too.
    To all the conservatives claiming that name changes erase history, yes exactly! The history of 1st nation’s people has been wiped away….

    • Changing names or taking out statues does not change history. History is in the past and cannot be changed. Be good to focus on bias or unfairness toward indigenous peoples right now, in real time, then waste time on a name. Today’s needed living necessities are what activist should focus on. For all Americans. Indigenous people are American citizens who deserve good schools, good shelter, the means to raise children safely and with a chance to exspand opportunities for success in life. Right now in Mendocino county the Covelo area is devastated by violence and children are dying.
      Just paying for heating a home has become impossible for so many. How about being advocates for real time change?? Stop wasting energy on name changes.

  2. Perhaps we can reach a compromise, change the official spelling of Fort Bragg to FOrt braGG. Heretofore to be known as FOGG !

  3. Woke is another name for freedom, and only a heritage of hate would scalp it’s citizenry with their entitled Confederate exploits.

    Woke = Freedom
    Freedom = America

    “Woke is just another name for nothing left to lose.”

    • that’s one helluva an “associative property” NOT.

      nothing left to loose? well man (non-binary) up and be a rainbow -patriot see how far ya get down main street FB with that.

    • “woke” is a trendy NewSpeak word, it means folks are asleep: we are on the brink of nuclear war, sending all our tax money for wars, the most expensive health care in the world, with the worst outcomes, millions in debt because of health extortion, blatant corporate price-gouging (notice how high prices are?), DECLINING average life expectancy, housing crisis, environmental destruction increasing, increasing numbers of houseless folks, etc etc.

      But these things are not important, we need to talk about emotional, divide-and-rule, topics to please our oligarch masters..

  4. The majority of Fort Bragg residents don’t want to change the name – bottom line.

    Lt. Gibson named the town after Braxton Bragg, but Bragg never set foot in the area. Should have been called Ft. Gibson. I think Bragg was a fkn scumbag, but that is beside the point.

    This is a superficial distraction, as usual. The institutionalize corruption from the Federal gov on down is plain to see, but no one wants to talk about that. PG&E literally gets away with murder, price-gouges its customers and causes home/fire insurance to skyrocket. The state won’t do anything to stop the insurance scalpers, or PG&E. It’s bipartisan – both factions of the Country Club (So-called republicans and democrats) support corporate extortion. They get “campaign contributions” (bribes) from the oligarchy. Political bribery is now legal (see Citizens United case)

    So, this BS about name changes is a giant superficial distraction from the rampant corruption and decline of our country.

  5. The term newspeak was coined by George Orwell in his 1949 anti-utopian novel 1984. In Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state, Newspeak was a language favored by the minions of Big Brother and, in Orwell’s words, “designed to diminish the range of thought.” Newspeak was characterized by the elimination or alteration of certain words, the substitution of one word for another, the interchangeability of parts of speech, and the creation of words for political purposes. Merriam Webster

    Minion: a servile dependent, follower, or underling.

  6. The folks who think the most important issue we face is the town name need to stop acting like callous, ivory-tower hypocrites and acknowledge facts: that the entire US was founded on genocide, slavery, exploitation, imperialism, elitism and corruption. I don’t like the facts either but we can’t go back and change it. You can’t project today’s values onto the past, it is inaccurate and irrational.

    If the hand-wringing (mostly upper middle class whites) so-called liberals are concerned about injustice: look at the skyrocketing houseless population, and the “too big to fail” above-the-law banksters who get bailed out after they commit financial fraud. The banks rip us off and the corrupt ass politricksters of both parties REWARD them. Honest working-class folks (including large numbers of non-white and whites alike) get ripped off, foreclosed on by the banksters. But the name-change crowd apparently don’t give a toss about the suffering of people NOW. No matter what color you are, what orientation, we are all getting shafted – don’t fall for the divide and rule BS.

    Instead of superficial distractions, how about speaking out against the Supreme Court accepting bribes?, sending billions to Israel, Ukraine etc. in weapons to mass murder folks. If they want to mass murder people, why does the US taxpayer foot the bill, and why do the weapons companies get triple-digit profits on the contracts? (rhetorical question).

    The gov. says they are “broke” and want to steal our SS/Medicare that we already paid for. (But they have plenty of 100s of billions for weapons etc.)

    None of this is important to the privileged ivory-tower folks: they can afford the most expensive “health care” in the world (in the USA), they don’t get foreclosed on, they don’t have credit problems, they don’t become houseless. The most important issue they see is a name. No wonder our society is slowly collapsing

    • “You can’t project today’s values onto the past, it is inaccurate and irrational.”

      BS straight up G!

      There’s nothing inaccurate or irrational about historical complex trauma felt NOW…today in FB. Time is all we really have, and the defunct appendage of our history moves us, not the other way around.

      Also, who gave you oversight on others values? I agree with everything else you said.

      I say again: Woke is another name for freedom, and only a heritage of hate would scalp its citizenry with their entitled Confederate exploits.

    • Jonny, perhaps you should consider leaving America and migrating to the Palestinian authority. It’s perfect over there.

  7. Change Our New Fort Bragg sent a press release last week announcing our new work with the American Civili Liberties Association and Matt LaFever turned it into a MendoFever article full of omissions, misstatements and such obvious bias as to be unworthy of the name journalism.

    First he managed to excise the ACLU from the story. It’s not very day a national organization partners with a local organization but you’d never know it from the story. The impetus for submitting comment to California’s Advisory Committee on Geographic Names was to expand its purview to remove racist and offensive names. Both the US Department of the Interior and the California legislature have asked for the removal of the racial slur “squaw” from geographic locations including the California town of Squaw Valley. Squaw Valley near Tahoe has already changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.

    NOW, The ACLU and Change Our Name are asking the CACGN and the legislature to expand their definition of offensive names to include Confederate iconography and words like “Fort” and to move beyond merely physical locations like mountains and rivers and consider how offensive names have been applied to streets, schools, and, yes, towns. FB Middle School and FB High School remain the only two public schools, out of ten thousand in the state, named for Confederates.

    LaFever also wrote,”“Bragg” stands as a nod to Confederate General Braxton Bragg, which the name change advocates argue is Mendocino County’s homage to the Lost Cause and the white supremacy it represents. It is worth noting, the name Fort Bragg was named [sic] in 1857, four years before the Civil War began.” This statement ignores two realities: Bragg was a slave owner from birth and when the Fort was named for him 1857 he was running a Louisiana plantation on the backs of 105 enslaved men, women, and children, a brutal celebration of white supremacy and, secondly, Bragg was a long dead Confederate General, white supremacist, and traitor when the town, not the Fort, made the mistake of taking his name upon its incorporation in 1881.
    Our town will indeed change it name not by fiat but by vote of its residents. And while the Ukiah based LaFever may oppose the renaming let us hope he will accurately report what local residents are trying to do.

  8. Change Our New Fort Bragg sent out a press release last week announcing our new work with the American Civili Liberties Association and Matt LaFever turned it into a MendoFever article full of omissions, misstatements and such obvious bias as to be unworthy of the name journalism.

    First he managed to excise the ACLU from the story. It’s not very day a national organization partners with a local organization but you’d never know it from the story. The impetus for submitting comment to California’s Advisory Committee on Geographic Names was to expand its purview to remove racist and offensive names. Both the US Department of the Interior and the California legislature have asked for the removal of the racial slur “squaw” from geographic locations including the California town of Squaw Valley. Squaw Valley near Tahoe has already changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.

    NOW, The ACLU and Change Our Name are asking the CACGN and the legislature to expand their definition of offensive names to include Confederate iconography and words like “Fort” and to move beyond merely physical locations like mountains and rivers and consider how offensive names have been applied to streets, schools, and, yes, towns. FB Middle School and FB High School remain the only two public schools, out of ten thousand in the state, named for Confederates.

    LaFever also wrote,”“Bragg” stands as a nod to Confederate General Braxton Bragg, which the name change advocates argue is Mendocino County’s homage to the Lost Cause and the white supremacy it represents. It is worth noting, the name Fort Bragg was named [sic] in 1857, four years before the Civil War began.” This statement ignores two realities: Bragg was a slave owner from birth and when the Fort was named for him 1857 he was running a Louisiana plantation on the backs of 105 enslaved men, women, and children, a brutal celebration of white supremacy and, secondly, Bragg was a long dead Confederate General, white supremacist, and traitor when the town, not the Fort, made the mistake of taking his name upon its incorporation in 1881.
    Our town will indeed change it name not by fiat but by vote of its residents. And while the Ukiah based LaFever may oppose the renaming let us hope he will accurately report what local residents are trying to do.

  9. The residents of Fort Bragg California wish to keep the name of their town.
    Save Our Name (SON) is a group representing the majority of residents of Fort Bragg California that wish to make it perfectly clear that they wish to keep the name of their town Fort Bragg, California. The beliefs of Save Our Name! (SON) can be summarized as follows:
    1. Majority Support: Save Our Name (SON) – Fort Bragg, California, firmly believe that the majority of Fort Bragg residents wish to keep the town’s current name. They view this majority sentiment as a critical factor that should be acknowledged, valued, and respected in any decision-making process regarding the town’s name.
    2. Demonstrating Support: To substantiate their claim of majority support, Save Our Town’s Name (SON) points to the number of supporters that’s been gathered. SON has over 846 supporters, which is significantly more than the reported 162 supporters of the group “CON.” Additionally, SON has collected over 4,500 supportive signatures on their Save Our Name (SON) petitions, which they see as a clear demonstration of the concerns and sentiments of community members who want to preserve the name “Fort Bragg.”
    3. Inclusive Decision-Save Our Name (SON) wishes to emphasize that the decision about the town’s name should not be made unilaterally by any one individual or group. Instead, they advocate for a more inclusive approach, where the desires of the majority are taken into consideration. The community’s collective voice should guide the decision-making process on this matter and the community of residents of Fort Bragg California have clearly made it known that they wish to retain their name of Fort Bragg, California. No change.
    The significant level of support that Save Our Name (SON) has garnered from community members is a testament to the majority sentiment in favor of preserving the current name. Save Our Town’s Name firmly believe that the wishes of the majority should be respected and honored. The residents of Fort Bragg wish to retain the name of it’s town as Fort Bragg, California, as a show of respect and honor to both past and present residents of the town.
    We appreciate Mr. Lafever’s professional and unbiased reporting in the MendoFever article. It is a breath of fresh air to see a balanced and unbiased report on this issue.

    • Can you explain why you want to continue to see our town named after a Confederate, an enslaver, and traitor (when the town named after the Civil War) and a Fort where troops enforce a concentration camp for Indigenous people? How does this respect and honor residents?

      • my people were slaves under the crown for over 800 years. we do not seek reparations, nor do we tear down statues or change the names of forts and towns …much less rewrite history. get the feck over it.
        what is left of our Republic has much bigger problems.

      • By your logic: Washington, Jefferson and many others were slave holders, so we should change all the names of the schools, towns across the entire country.etc. While you are at it burn the constitution since it was written by slave-holders. Your pious, virtue-signalling hypocrisy ignores the majority will of the people. You are an authoritarian and anti-democratic. Changing names will not give us a health care system, not solve the housing crisis, not prevent corruption etc.

        Right now: Julian Assange is being tortured, Palestinians are being murdered with US weapons gifted to Israel, Hawaii is being ethnically cleansed of the indigenous population. etc etc. Changing a
        Why do you show such callous disregard for poor and working people of all colors?

        You were outvoted, that’s democracy deal with it and don’t be sore loser. Your phony, superficial concern for injustice serves right-wing authoritarians and divides the public.

  10. As near as I can tell, the Change the Name project is not about anything more serious than self-righteous narcissists displaying their supposed moral superiority. Their tactics are evidence of it. They have tried persuasion but when that didn’t work, they turned to intimidation of businesses owners. They try to shame their opponents with straw man propositions such as “So you like living in a town named after a racist?” inferring their opposition is morally inferior to themselves, they who care so very much about making the world a better place. We don’t need self-proclaimed saviors but people who will work in real and very serious problems.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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