Linfield University renames street in honor of Native American first food

07.08.2021 Danielle Harrison Culture, Tribal employees
Linfield University Facilities Department employee Darrell Driver recently erected a new street sign after the school decided to rename a street that was named after a former science professor who stole Native American burial artifacts. The new name, Lakamas, means “camas,” which is a traditional Native American first food. (Photo by Timothy Sofranko, Linfield photographer)


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff writer

McMINNVILLE -- After learning that a private two-block street on its campus was named after a former science professor who had stolen Native American burial artifacts, Linfield University chose to right a wrong.

In November 2020, the Board of Trustees recommended removing the name of A.M. Brumback from the campus street and creating a commission to discuss replacement names.

The committee, which included students, faculty and staff, invited Cultural Resources Department Manager David Harrelson to join the group in proposing a new name centered on the Indigenous people who had been there since time immemorial. Specifically, Linfield University is located on what is the traditional territory of the “Yam Hill” band of the Kalapuya people.

The committee considered six possible names and unanimously voted to support Lakamas Lane as the new street name.

“It has been a privilege to support members of the renaming committee … with this effort,” Harrelson wrote in a letter to Linfield University President Miles K. Davis. “Their commitment to learning and inclusion was always at the forefront of our conversations. After much thoughtful deliberation, the committee has selected Lakamas Lane. I am writing to enthusiastically support the recommendation of the committee to rename Brumback Street to Lakamas Lane.

“Lakamas is the Chinuk Wawa name for the blue-flowered camas plant that was and continues to be an important food of our people. At the time of early Euro-American settlement of the Willamette Valley, camas was so thick in areas that the patches of blooming flowers were confused as lakes from a distance. This name honors the people and lifeways of the Kalapuya people who are the Indigenous people of the Willamette Valley.”

While the word “lacamas” exists in other parts of the Pacific Northwest, such as Lacamas Lake in Clark County, Wash., “lakamas” is unique to Chinuk Wawa and makes Linfield University the only place in the world where one can find Lakamas Lane.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the name change at its May 1 meeting. Since then, signage has been updated and all students living on campus will have their mail delivered to the new address.

“David was instrumental in providing leadership, guidance and knowledge, and was generous with his time,” a committee statement said. “His willingness to engage with the university in this renaming effort has led us to envision a fruitful and collaborative future between Linfield and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.”

Linfield’s McMinnville campus also is home to large remnant patches of camas that, under intentional management, thrive around Cozine Creek.


Includes information from Linfield News.