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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

After George Wright’s street name change, Mukogawa follows

Aug. 26, 2021 Updated Fri., Aug. 27, 2021 at 10:29 a.m.

On August 24, construction workers put the finishing touches on one of the new Mukogawa U.S. Campus sign on the campus after removing the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute sign.  (Ervin Schleufer )
On August 24, construction workers put the finishing touches on one of the new Mukogawa U.S. Campus sign on the campus after removing the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute sign. (Ervin Schleufer )

The Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute officially changed its name to Mukogawa U.S. Campus and took down the street addresses that used U.S. Army Gen. George Wright’s name.

The move coincides with Spokane Falls Community College’s address change from George Wright Drive to Whistalks Way.

George Wright was an U.S. Army official who led an ambush against the Yakama tribe, capturing and hanging the tribe’s chief, Qualchan. Whist-alks, Qualchan’s wife, survived after escaping.

Activists had protested George Wright’s name on SFCC campus since 1975 and the address change was a long-sought victory. The Spokane City Council had approved the changes last December, but physical removal of Wright’s name and ceremonies had been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Charlene BearCub of the Colville Tribe is Qualchan and Whist-alks’ great- great- granddaughter. She described the change of the new addresses as “wonderful.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” BearCub said. “It’s always been a family heartache every time we drive on that little stretch. It was a stark reminder of what our grandfather endured. We really appreciate the new awareness that other communities are showing for these kinds of historical events that happen. I can’t describe the healing that it’s bringing to the Native and Indigenous community in our family.”

Tribes celebrated the change on SFCC’s campus with a two-hour ceremony that paid tribute to Whist-alks and current women who embody her courage, strength and passion for the Spokane community.

But the removal of signs in Mukogawa happened rather quietly on a sunny afternoon Tuesday.

Construction workers replaced two old signs from “Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute” to “Mukogawa U.S. Campus” in under two hours. There was no ceremony held by campus officials nor was the Indigenous community invited to watch Ervin Schleufer of the Coeur D’Alene Tribe was the only Indigenous man in attendance watching history take place. Schleufer is a freelance photographer.

“I can’t thank the Japanese community enough, I’m really impressed by the way someone sees something that’s wrong and no one has to ask them to look at it,” Schleufer said. “(Mukogawa’s campus leaders) were proactive about (the name change) and they put a game plan in place. They didn’t draw attention to themselves, they were just moving forward to do the right thing there and I just happened to find out through curiosity.”

The Mukogawa U.S. Institute has been labeled the “branch campus” of the Mukogawa Women’s University in Nishinomiya, Japan, since its founding in 1990. Nishinomiya is one of Spokane’s sister cities.

Mukogawa donned the Fort George Wright namesake since the building’s original use was for military purposes from 1906 to 1957. The U.S. government then labeled it as surplus land, granting educational facilities priority permission of the property. Schools operated by Sisters of the Holy Names and Spokane Falls Community College used the land.

Another school was renamed Fort Wright College which opened in 1963. When Fort Wright College officially closed in 1982, Mukogawa Women’s University purchased the land and opened Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute. The college is recognized as an English and American Culture program. The name change reflects Mukogawa’s core missions of “facilitating students’ and American community’s reciprocal understanding of one another’ culture and lifestyles.”

Though a common way to acknowledge change is by celebrating it, the Mukogawa U.S. Campus decided to take action. Mukogawa’s Executive Vice President Akihiro Nakahara said the name change was proposed to their parent university in Nishinomiya back in 2017 and was approved August 2020.

“We have been operating under the new name—Mukogawa U.S. Campus, or MUSC—since then,” Nakahara said. “Today, we’re pleased to have our old signage redone to reflect the change.”

Carol Evans, the Spokane Tribe Chairwoman, said what matters is the action.

“Some groups and cultures believe in doing things in a quiet manner and if that’s the case I totally respect it,” Evans said. “You don’t have to be told to make a correction, you do it. You walk the walk rather than talk the talk.”

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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