Kudos to San Diego Unified for Naming New Mission Valley Elementary School After Kumeyaay Village

by on November 12, 2021 · 1 comment

in Education, History, San Diego

Kudos are certainly due to the San Diego Unified School District and its leadership for naming a new elementary school opening in 2022 in Mission Valley after the Kumeyaay village that was located in the vicinity long before the arrival of the Spanish.

The new school will be named Nipaquay Elementary (Nipaquay is pronounced ni-puh-kwai) and will open within the Civita development. Construction is 75 percent complete for the school that will have 500 students and 23 classrooms.

On Tuesday, November 9, the School Board voted unanimously to approve the name for the new school, which is expected to accommodate the thousands of families moving into Mission Valley over the next 30 years. The city is planning for 50,000 residents in 28,000 new housing units by 2050. (Have you been in Mission Valley lately?)

The whole naming process was very interesting, according to an article by Kristen Taketa of the San Diego Union-Tribune. She wrote:

San Diego Unified officials, who have embraced ethnic studies and other racial diversity efforts in recent years, have said the school naming process is a chance for reconciliation and for acknowledging historical injustices against people of color, including a history of violence against Indigenous people.

Lidia Martinez, chair of the district’s school naming committee, told Taketa that the Nipaquay Village was located near the San Diego River and was a nexus for trade routes.

Taketa quoted Erica Pinto, chairwoman of Jamul Indian Village and a member of San Diego Unified’s school naming committee:

Things are just changing, and we are on the right path for student leadership and equity and justice and that recognition of genocide.

Out of the three top options local residents had come up with in a survey, the naming committee unanimously voted for Nipaquay.  The other two top options were Quarry Falls, to mark the area’s history as a mining area (when Civita first opened, it was called “Quarry Falls”), and Tony Gwynn, San Diego’s baseball great, Hall of famer and Black right fielder for the San Diego Padres.

During an online community survey for two months, 1,334 responses were received. 39 percent voted for Quarry Falls, 38 percent voted for Tony Gwynn and 32 percent voted for Nipaquay. But, the committee “chose Nipaquay because the name acknowledges thousands of years of often-overlooked Indigenous people’s history,” Martinez said in an email, Taketa reported. Martinez stated:

Nipaquay Elementary responds to San Diego Unified students’ calls for racial justice, as well as Governor Newsom’s and the board of education’s call to recognize genocide and uplift indigenous communities.

The U-T reported stated:

The committee decided against Quarry Falls, although it received the most votes, because Indigenous people “may dispute the positive benefits of a quarry constructed on unceded Kumeyaay land,” Martinez said. …

The committee consulted with its ethnic studies and youth advocacy teams when proposing names for the community survey. The committee also got input from the Kanap Kuahan Coalition, a local Kumeyaay group whose mission is to remove school names, statues and monuments that are offensive to Indigenous, Black and other people of color, according to its Facebook page.

The School Board also renamed Junípero Serra High School as Canyon Hills High earlier in the year because the Serra name was offensive to local Indigenous leaders and supporters.

Yet, the naming of the new elementary after a Kumeyaay village is a great step. Many San Diegans are unaware of the location of many of the major villages that existed in our area before the Spanish colonization wiped them out.

In fact, it would be a great challenge for San Diegans to locate, identify, acknowledge and commemorate the major villages of the First People.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman November 13, 2021 at 8:09 pm

The unpaid volunteer SDUSD school naming committee did the right thing by naming the new Mission Valley school for Kumeyaay original settlers. Much better than a geographical designation or a famous baseball player. Kudos for transcending the polling.


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