Thurston County Must Be Renamed

Thurston County Must Be Renamed

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It is time to rename Thurston County. This name gives honor Samuel R. Thurston, a virulent racist who demonized Blacks and Native Americans. Thurston worked tirelessly to strip the Native Americans of their rights to their ancestral homelands. He was a hero to the white invaders of the land, writing the law that gave 320 acres of land to any white person who showed up, without a cent of compensation to the Clatsop and Nehalem who had lived there for thousands of years. These nations continue to struggle to be recognized by the US government to this day.
 
Thurston also urged congress to ban free Black citizens from travelling to the territory, arguing that they would “interbreed” with Native Americans, giving them leverage over the white population currently seeking to steal the land. Under his guidance, though he had died before it could be enacted, Black people were banned from Oregon when it achieved statehood.
 
This is Samuel Thurston’s legacy.
 
Samuel Thurston worked avidly to deprive First Nations of their lands and ensured that Black Americans weren’t allowed to step foot in the State of Oregon. At the time of his death, the city of Olympia was within the Oregon territory. That city, the capital of the State of Washington, is within Thurston County. It is time to remove the honor given to his name.
 
There is no shortage of more fitting names for the county in which our capitol sits. I propose Salish County, but this is worth a greater debate. What must happen, no matter what, is the removal of Samuel Thurston’s name. Statues honoring racists and murderers are being torn down. The names we give to cities, towns, and counties are also monuments, and when they honor racism, hatred, and bigotry, we must tear them down as well.