Proposing a Name

Geographic naming in Oregon is a public process by which anyone can submit a formal proposal for consideration. Proposals for new names, name changes, and name corrections should be made using OGNB’s Domestic Geographic Names Report (DGNR) form and submitted directly to the OGNB either by email or through the US mail. The OGNB’s Interim Committee reviews and investigates all incoming proposals and makes recommendations to the full Board. The full Board meets twice a year to vote on name proposals with a late fall meeting usually in Portland and an early summer meeting held elsewhere in the state. The OGNB’s recommendations are submitted to the USBGN for final action.

US Board on Geographic Names procedures and the role of State Names Authorities

Guidelines for Name Proposals

The US Board on Geographic Names has established policies and procedures for name proposals. Key policies include:

  1. The Domestic Geographic Name Report from and the electronic version are self-explanatory. If possible, attach additional information such as a map, photograph, and background information. The OGNB is available to answer questions. Refer to address and telephone numbers on the OGNB web page.
  2. A proposed name must be legitimate and justified. Avoid duplicating the existing names of other geographic features.
  3. A proposed name must be recordable in the Roman alphabet, and it may be American Indian, jargon, English, or other language. It must include an English generic as part of the name, such as "Creek," "Mountain," "Lake," etc. A proposed name should be reasonably pronounceable, but somewhat difficult to pronounce American Indian words or names can be considered in view of tribal linguistics and cultural respect. It must not be defamatory or derogatory and should be acceptable to a majority of the residents in the local area.
  4. American Indian words or names are preferred as replacement names for "squaw." Proponents are advised to consult with the appropriate American Indian tribal organization before proposing a name from an American Indian language.
  5. A proposed name can be commemorative, such as Mount Jefferson, descriptive, such as Black Butte, or associative such as French Prairie. If the proposed name commemorates an individual, the person must be deceased for at least five years; a person's surname is preferred; and the person must have some historic connection or have made a significant contribution to the local area.
  6. The proponent should contact local landowners involved to determine if there is any opposition to the proposed name.
  7. Upon receipt of a proposal, the OGNB will conduct a review process and request comments from all Oregon American Indian tribal organizations, appropriate county commissioners, and local historical societies. If the proposal generates a high level of public interest, an article will be placed in the local newspaper to inform the local population.
  8. If the proposal meets the principles, policies, and procedures (Principles, Policies, and Procedures: Domestic Geographic Names) of the United States Board on Geographic Names (USBGN,) the OGNB is likely to recommend approval and forward the proposal to the USBGN for final action.

Name Proposal Review Process

Upon submittal of a completed DGNR, Oregon Geographic Names Board Chair will assign the name to a Board member residing in the closest proximity to the geographic feature. This will be the main contact for someone proposing a new name or changing an existing name. At the same time, the DGNR will be sent out to for all of the required reviews: Local county Board of Commissioners, local historical society, Indian Tribes, local landowners. A press release is also sent out to the local media regarding the proposed name. Reviewers are given up to 3 months to respond.

Once the reviews are in, the DGNR goes to the Oregon Geographic Names Board Interim Committee, which also reviews the proposal for completeness before it is sent on to the full OGN Board. The OGN Board meets twice a year, once in early Summer and again, in late Fall. Applicants can attend both the Interim and Board meetings if their name proposal is being considered.

A typical name proposal will take from 6 months to a year to receive a final recommendation from the OGN Board. OGNB does not have final authority on naming proposals-the US Board on Geographic Names makes the final decision. However, the US Board reviews all the data provided by Oregon's Board on Geographic Names, including the Board's recommendation regarding a proposal.

Board Meetings

The Oregon Geographic Names Board meets twice a year, once in late June (Summer meeting) and once in late Fall. Meetings are held throughout the State, and are held on a Saturday afternoon.