Robert Eaglestaff Billy Frank
The Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History & Industry/AP Images
The names of Robert Eaglestaff (left) and Billy Frank Jr. are among those being considered for a new middle school proposed on an important Duwamish site in the Licton Springs neighborhood of Seattle.

Two Native Leaders’ Names Among Those Being Considered for New Seattle School

Richard Walker

The names of Billy Frank Jr. and Robert Eaglestaff are among those being considered for a new middle school proposed on an important Duwamish site in the Licton Springs neighborhood of Seattle.

A middle school and an elementary school will be built on the Wilson-Pacific School site, which is over a spring used historically by the Duwamish people. Over the years, the 63-year-old school building housed an elementary school, middle school, alternative school and, for more than 20 years, the American Indian Heritage Middle College High School. The building features murals by Andrew Morrison, Apache-Haida, of historic Native American leaders.

The old school will be demolished and the walls with the murals incorporated into the new buildings. A new elementary school and middle school are scheduled to open in fall 2017; the middle school will house the Licton Springs K-8 program, a successor to the American Indian Heritage School program.

The Urban Native Education Alliance and the Seattle Tlingit and Haida Community Council have asked the school district to name the middle school in honor of Eaglestaff, Lakota, who was principal of American Indian Heritage School when it was a high school program with a 100 percent graduation rate. Eaglestaff, a University of North Dakota Hall of Fame basketball player, was principal from 1989 until his death in 1996.

Urban Native Education Alliance chairwoman Sarah Sense-Wilson said she received more than 30 letters in support of naming the school after Eaglestaff, and forwarded those to the district.

According to Thomas L. Redman, a Seattle Public Schools spokesman, district policy states that the names of new schools “should be selected based upon geographical location or local community name, or distinguished individuals who have served the community, state, or nation, whether in education or other fields.”

Names nominated for the new middle-school: Robert Eaglestaff; Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, environmental leader and defender of treaty rights; Yuri Kochiyama, Asian American and African American civil rights activist; Dr. Caspar Sharples, co-founder of Children’s Hospital and Seattle School Board president from 1922-1931; and President Woodrow Wilson, after whom the existing school is named.

For the new elementary school building, the following four names are finalists: Cascadia, the name of the geographic bioregion that includes Washington, Oregon and British Columbia; David Douglas, Scottish botanical explorer of the Northwest and namesake of the Douglas fir tree; Corliss Preston, state superintendent of education from 1913-1929; and Sharples.

Seattle Public Schools hosted a community meeting and an online survey as part of the nomination process. Superintendent Larry Nyland will make a recommendation to the school board for approval.

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