By Ann Barker Ong
Chair, Bacone College Board of Trustees
Monday, the city of Muskogee will consider a proposal to change the name of Shawnee Street between York and Country Club to honor the high school. To name the road that fronts Bacone College for the high school is insulting to Bacone students. Why should students, faculty and staff of the oldest continuously operated institution of higher learning in the state of Oklahoma have to travel to and from their campus on a road named for the high school? They should not.
The city has taken the position that Old Bacone Road is a private road and the city could not support a request for earmarks to repair the road. Old Bacone Road’s name comes from the historic name of a town that had its own zip code and was not named in honor of our college. If it is private as the city claims (even if it had been named to honor the college), then it does not logically follow that it is fair to name a public road for the high school because the college already has a private road named for it; this is certainly not an issue of giving the high school an honor that has already been bestowed upon Bacone.
Further, to have this issue come to the council without ANY contact from Muskogee Public Schools to Bacone is equally insulting. The student senate from Muskogee High School should have contacted the Student Senate from Bacone. This road is not just the high school road; Bacone College students travel from the Curt’s Shopping Center to our gate every day along our continuous property line since we have a ground lease on the shopping center.
Failing to acknowledge the existence of an institution that has owned and occupied most of the land in this section of Shawnee Road for more than 125 years, and from whom the land was acquired for the present site of the high school, seems, if not insult or nescience, at least insensitivity. Bacone is one of only two remaining historically Native American colleges and is currently experiencing a renaissance. It holds a special place in the hearts and memories of its alumni and its supporters, and it is unique to Muskogee. A decision by the council to name this street in the manner proposed would be yet another example of Muskogee ignoring Bacone and another step toward making Bacone invisible to Muskogee. It is a way of denying the place of Bacone College in Muskogee and its importance to Muskogee’s history and future.
Bacone College had not requested any change to the street name prior to the application to change the name to honor the high school, but if a change is to be made, the council should NOT take action that benefits one institution to the detriment of the other. In the event of a change, the council should be interested in honoring BOTH Muskogee High School and Bacone. While Bacone would be amenable to splitting the name of the street, it seems that this would pose a public safety issue with regard to 911 emergency services. Since the road name cannot be split, it should not be changed.
As Chair of the Bacone College Board of Trustees, a contributing member of the community, and a business woman in the City of Muskogee for the past 31 years, I call upon the City Council to do the right thing at its meeting on July 12. Deny this request. There should be NO name change to Shawnee between York and Country Club.