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During Monday night’s school board meeting the ISD 197 school board will decide whether or not to change the name of Henry Sibley High School. A group of current students and alumni have organized to push for a name change, citing concerns with the character of Henry Sibley.
At the last school board meeting, on November 16, 2020, the board heard a presentation from Kevin Maijala and Dr. Kate Beane from the Minnesota Historical Society and the district’s American Indian Liaison Allicia Waukau Butler on the perspectives she gathered from the district’s American Indian families (begins at about 5:46 in the online video). After an hour and 20 minutes, the board opted to consider the information and vote on the resolution at the next meeting, on Monday, December 7 at 6 p.m. (board meetings are streamed live). Residents can contact school board members to share their input.
If approved, the resolution only moves forward with the possibility of a name change. Potential new names are not up for consideration at this point.
An online petition organized by current and former students, local residents, and members of the Dakota communities of Minnesota argued that, “While Henry Sibley is an important figure in Minnesota history, his actions against the Dakota people demonstrate a character unsuitable to honor with the name of our school.”
Sibley, the first governor of Minnesota, played a key role in the 1862 conflict with the Dakota. Local writer and Sibley alum Bill Lindeke wrote a detailed history examining Henry Sibley and sharing his opinion. Both the City Pages and the Star Tribune recently covered the potential name change as the conversation has continued.
“I think we are at a unique time in history that provides an opportunity for there to be insightful conversations about whom we should honor with these names,” said Board Member Brenda Corbett.
Changing Names and Mascots
Henry Sibley High School has considered a name change before, with students voting in the late 1980s to retain the “Warriors” mascot name. The school also used a stylized depiction of a Native American’s head for the logo since at least the late 1990s. Currently the logo is a Greco-Roman style warrior.
The high school is also the third school named for Sibley in the district. The original Sibley Elementary was built in 1887 and Sibley Junior High School opened in 1936.
June 22, 2021 Update: Official Name Change
The board voted to change the name to Two Rivers High School.
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