PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two months after announcing the decision to change its name due to its racist origins, the Portland Audubon is calling on the community to help with finding a new name.
In late February, the environmental organization issued a statement saying that it’d be dropping the “Audubon” from its title because of its namesake’s values. The bird conservation group is currently named after John James Audubon, who died in 1851.
He was a naturalist and ornithologist commonly known for his book “Birds of America,” which included illustrations of different bird species in the U.S. He was also a slaveholder who rejected the abolitionist movement and stole Native American remains from graves.
The Portland Audubon’s board voted to change the name in January. A few months later, the organization denounced the National Audubon Society’s refusal to follow suit.
“We have heard from many staff, volunteers, and community members who are people of color, specifically Black, that it’s painful to bear the name of a slaveholder at the place where they work or volunteer, or to wear a shirt with our name on it,” the Portland chapter said.
Additionally, the nonprofit addressed the idea that Audubon was merely a product of his time, saying that the artist would’ve been exposed to the abolition movement in his lifetime and still chose to enslave and sell Black people.
Audubon chapters in Seattle, Madison, New York City, Chicago, Golden Gate and Washington D.C. chapters have also chosen to rebrand, citing similar reasons to the Portland nonprofit.
The local chapter recently launched a survey that asks for the community’s feedback on a new name that would better suit its values. In the survey, Portland Audubon asks respondents questions about the organization’s purpose, what it does best, what it should do better, and more.
“While our name will change, our mission remains the same: to inspire people to love and protect birds, wildlife, and the natural environment upon which life depends,” the bird conservation group said.