A Mendota Heights high school will now be called Two Rivers after the school board decided to remove Henry Sibley's name from the building.
The West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan school board on Monday voted 5-1 for the new name. In December, the board voted unanimously to drop the Henry Sibley High School name because of the role Sibley played in the U.S.-Dakota War and the country's largest mass execution.
The board started considering the name change about a year ago. The community then submitted more than 200 possible new names, which were narrowed down by a 35-member committee made up of students, parents, alumni and residents. The committee was asked to choose a name that did not honor a particular person, that fit with the current Warriors mascot for the school and that didn't represent cultural appropriation.
A citywide survey of 4,182 residents ranked five suggested names. The top three — West Heights, Two Rivers and Hillside — were brought to the board for a vote Monday. Board Member John Chandler didn't vote, saying that he hadn't heard from enough people in support of the proposed names.
"Two Rivers" was a nod to the word "Mendota," meaning "the meeting of the waters," and meant to suggest a theme of unity and the merging of past and present ideas, said Daymond Dean, a committee member. He said that keeping the Warriors mascot eliminated some name options.
Other school districts have faced similar decisions about whether or how to rename buildings or programs that honor people with problematic histories. The Minneapolis school board, for instance, has an advisory committee to examine building names.
In comments to the board, West St. Paul-Mendota Heights Superintendent Peter Olson-Skog thanked the naming committee and the board for their work to reach a consensus for what began as a divisive issue. Although he did hear from residents concerned that the name change represented an erasure of history, he said he's "confident the school community will be able to honor our past and embrace our future."