Marin County held a learning session this week to discuss the potential renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Many members of the public have pushed for the county to change the name due to Drake’s history as a slave trader, and thousands have signed an online petition for the name change.
Those who spoke during the Monday online session were tribal vice chair Lorelle Ross, cultural resources specialist Matthew Johnson, and tribal heritage preservation officer Buffy McQuillen, all of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo), history professor Jordan Lieser from San Rafael-based Dominican University of California, and author and historian Dewey Livingston.
One idea the county has is allowing for the Native peoples of the land to choose a name for the road.
Ross spoke first in the meeting about the presence of the Coastal Miwok and Southern Pomo peoples of Marin and their history on the land that the boulevard runs through.
“Our present-day existence as a tribe is to continue with the mission of social justice, which includes the ancestral period of Marin,” Ross said. “We are all survivors of genocide in American history that is really not favorable toward Native Americans.”
Ross emphasizes the cultural erasure that she feels some members of Marin County have caused.
“In Marin County we are facing ‘oh, we thought you all were dead and often time hidden right in plain sight,” Ross said.
Lieser offered the many different historical perspectives of Sir Francis Drake, some calling him a pirate who was greedy, while others commended him for his efforts.
Livingston, who has studied Marin’s past for 35 years, spoke about the different names the boulevard has had throughout history and how it landed on Sir Francis Drake. Marvelous Marin, an organization in the 1940s trying to attract visitors to Marin, officially named the boulevard after Sir Francis Drake, according to Livingston.
In addition to the name of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard potentially being changed, recently Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo also decided to change its name, a process that is still ongoing. A Sir Francis Drake statue in Larkspur was also taken down July 29 after protesters fought for its removal.