Oñate High School board, students considers name change

New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – Amid the nationwide push to re-examine historical monuments and icons, Oñate High School in Las Cruces is considering a name change. “My Oñate family is really struggling with this right now and it’s tearing us apart. Because you have students on this side, students on the other side,” says Principal James Schapekahm. “I think we really need to dig in and get some more input from really, the direct stakeholders.”

At Thursday’s School Board meeting, the principal said he has discussions planned with parents and staff next week. Communities across New Mexico are looking at removing monuments and renaming streets bearing the name of Juan de Oñate, the Spanish Conquistador known for his brutality toward Native Americans.

One board member expressed concerns about the cost of a name change, especially given the tough choices expected in the face of upcoming budget shortfalls. Another said, whatever the outcome, it will be a valuable conversation. “A lot of times, the history doesn’t get discussed and so it’s a good opportunity even though it can cause conflict and it can cause some uncomfortable feelings,” said board member Teresa Tenorio.

A group of students brainstormed possible replacements, including Organ High School, and Organ Mountain High School. These would allow the school to keep their signature letter “O.”


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