Spokane Public Schools will move forward on a proposal to rename Sheridan Elementary School over its namesake’s brutality toward Indigenous people.
Gen. Philip Sheridan, immortalized in the poem “Sheridan’s Ride,” was a key figure in the Civil War and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, but he’s also known for his attack campaign against Native Americans.
After hearing from Sheridan Principal Larry Quisano and one of his students, the district board unanimously agreed Wednesday night to hold a public hearing later this spring to gauge public sentiment on the proposal.
If approved, the name change would be the first under a district policy formulated last fall.
The board decided to go forward after hearing from Sheridan sixth-grader Kiley Mitchell-Gregg, who said that as a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, she was offended by Sheridan’s actions during the American Indian Wars of the late 19th century.
Recalling a research project from the fourth grade, she described Sheridan’s “plans to destroy native villages and food stores. He did not care whether women and children died.”
“I love my school, but going into a school that is named for a ruthless human being, not so much,” Mitchell-Gregg said.
Quisano said that he’s received mostly positive comments on the proposal. Some have pointed out, however, that Sheridan was a U.S. Army General and a hero of the Civil War.
Quisano, however, said the current name “doesn’t reflect who we are.”
Sheridan is the second school in the district facing a potential change of identity.
Last month, board members agreed to hold public hearings toward a possible change for the North Central High School mascot, the Indians.
Under a policy adopted last fall, schools may be renamed after a process that begins with a presentation from families, students or other stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the Legislature is considering a bill, HB 1356, that would prohibit most public schools from using Native American names, symbols or images as mascots or logos.
Passed in the House by a vote of 92-5, the bill is on the Senate floor.
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