Purpose of the Geographic Names Board
The purpose of the OGNB is to supervise the naming of geographic features within the state of Oregon and to make recommendations to the USBGN, which has final approval authority. The Board also serves in an advisory capacity to federal, State, and local government by reviewing administrative name proposals.
The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) is the custodian of the OGNB's correspondence and records and provides the OGNB with limited administrative support. The OGNB operates under its own bylaws, and the Executive Director of the OHS serves as permanent secretary and as one of the board members. The OGNB is comprised of 25 board members, 24 of whom serve without compensation and are appointed to three-year terms by the secretary. The president and vice-president are elected to two-year terms by its membership, and the president appoints committees as needed. The board members represent all of the state's geographic regions and are selected for their knowledge of the state's geography and history. Advisors from State and federal land management and mapping agencies and the private sector serve as consultants to the Board.
2021 OGNB Board Members and Advisors (Updated March 31, 2021)
Proposing a Name
Geographic naming in Oregon is a public process by which anyone can submit a formal proposal for consideration. The OGNB’s Interim Committee...Learn More
Domestic Geographic Names Report Form
Proposals for new names, name changes, and name corrections should be made using this form and submitted directly to the OGNB either by email or...Download now (PDF)
Board Meetings and Name Proposals
Information about upcoming OGNB meetings, along with agendas and minutes of past meetings are listed here, as well as documentation for all proposals under consideration.Learn More
The Washington Post
June 10, 2021
By Silvia Foster-Frau. SAN ANTONIO — A federal board gave unanimous approval Thursday to removing "Negro" from the name of more than a dozen sites in Texas, more than two decades after the agency rejected a nearly identical request. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved name-change requests for 16 sites in one sweeping vote. The action came after the Texas legislature passed a bipartisan resolution last month urging the federal agency to approve removal of the racially offensive term from more than two dozen sites and rename them. The remaining sites listed in the resolution are expected to be submitted for a name-change request soon. “This day has been a long time coming, but I am proud to see this change finally happen,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a statement. But, he added, the work is not done — there are still hundreds of sites across the country with racially offensive and outdated names.
EOS (American Geophysical Union)
March 19, 2021
More than a thousand geographic features in the United States have racial slurs in their name. The slurs include derogatory terms for people who are Black, Indigenous, and of Asian descent and are used in names for small features across the landscape, like valleys, creeks, and lakes. Now an open letter from four graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is calling on geoscientists to support a recent bill in Congress to help remove the names. The Reconciliation in Place Names Act would give a federal board more power to change offensive place-names. The letter authors say that geoscientists must make the outdoors safe for people of color by removing harmful language that makes the profession less welcoming.
Jefferson Public Radio
January 8, 2021
Southern Oregon started out the year with new geographic names for mountains and waterways that were once offensive. Three geographic features in Jackson County that were once called Dead Indian Mountain, Creek, and Soda Springs are now officially renamed after the Native Latgawa people. Senior researcher with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Jennifer Runyon, says she hopes the new names will inspire people to research the Rogue Valley’s history. “By putting these names on the map and having people maybe seeing these for the first time, we’d like to think they would question that name,” Runyon says. “Do some research. Find out, what does it mean? And they would learn about that tribe that was essentially wiped off the landscape. Names tell stories, retain histories.”
JEFFERSON PUBLIC RADIO
November 27, 2020
At long last, "Ben" gets a last name: Johnson. Ben Johnson's full name will appear on maps indicating the mountain in the Applegate Valley heretofore known as "Negro Ben," which was itself a revising of an even more offensive name. Oregon Black Pioneers worked with the Oregon Geographic Names Board to get the name of the 19th-Century blacksmith applied to the mountain where he lived briefly during Oregon's gold rush. Zachary Stocks, OBP Executive Director, joins us to talk about Ben Johnson and the process of putting his name on his old home mountain.
September 30, 2020
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (N.M.-01), Vice-Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Al Green, a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus (Tex.-09) introduced legislation to address land units and geographic features with racist names. It is co-sponsored by Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon and others. She writes, "This legislation will create the Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names to make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names to rename geographic features and federal land units that currently bear offensive names. The committee would work with tribes, racial justice advocates, state governments, and members of the public to ensure place names are inclusive to all members of our communities." Since this legislation was announced in September, Congresswoman Haaland has been nominated by President Biden to be his choice for Secretary of the Interior.
Contacting the Oregon Geographic Names Board
Current OGNB officers are Bruce Fisher, President; Champ Vaughan, Vice President and Interim Chair; and Kerry Tymchuck, Secretary. Past President, Phil Cogswell.
To reach the board please contact:
Bruce Fisher (Board President)
Champ Vaughan (Vice President and Interim Chair)
The postal mailing address is:
Oregon Geographic Names Board
Oregon Historical Society
1200 S.W. Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
For more information on place names in Oregon, see Lewis L. McArthur's Oregon Geographic Names, 7th Edition, published by the Oregon Historical Society Press.