Sequoia Audubon Society
                              San Mateo County, California

SAS Name Change Considerations


April 5, 2024


SAS Name Change Review Committee Statement of Purpose

As our organization enters its seventy-fifth year, we find ourselves looking at who we are and who we can become. We are a community of birders and naturalists coming together to enjoy birds and wildlife, conserve their habitat, and educate the public. We are dedicated to being a community that welcomes everyone who enjoys birds and their natural ecosystems, and working for their conservation.

Over the last few years, a better, more in-depth understanding of our organization's namesake has emerged. Many know John James Audubon was an artist and naturalist. However, he was also known to be a racist and owner of enslaved peoples. He desecrated Native American burial sites, falsified field observations, and was more interested in adding to his collection than in conservation. While we recognize the important work done for birds by Audubon Society chapters over the past century, we must say forcefully that John James Audubon's actions clearly do not align with our organizational values.

Beginning with our annual summer planning meeting this past July, the Board of Directors have been reflecting on our name and how it can be an obstacle to fulfilling our mission. We believe we must now consider changing our name.

The National Audubon Society has decided to keep its name. National Audubon has stated that each chapter is able to make its own decisions based on the unique needs and values of its community. We should take this opportunity to consider how we can best prepare for the future of birds and birding.

We propose that, as an initial step in this process of considering a more inclusive organization name, as has been done by other Audubon chapters, we will form a name change committee, inviting diverse members of our birding community to help guide us.  We plan on polling our membership and greater community on their position on a consideration of name-change, and evaluate their input as we proceed on this path.

If you are interested in joining our name change committee to help steer this process, please fill out this form by Wednesday, 4/24/24: https://bit.ly/SASname

If you would like more information about John James Audubon and his background, please review these resources:

  1. In July 2020, National Audubon began exploring the history of John James Audubon. This initial exploration was rooted in a movement to make Audubon an antiracist organization.

  2. This blog post from Golden Gate Bird Alliance further details the history of John James Audubon.

  3. This post by Chuq Von Rospach was shared on PenBird in December 2023, a local birder who has moved out of state. 

  4. The Myth of John James Audubon — a critical 2020 profile in Audubon magazine by Gregory Nobles, an emeritus history professor at Georgia Tech and author of John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)

  5. What Do We Do About John James Audubon? — nuanced 2021 essay from Audubon magazine by J. Drew Lanham, a prominent Black ornithologist and endowed faculty at Clemson University, where his work focuses on the intersections among race, place, and nature.

  6. John James Audubon: America's Rare Bird — a laudatory 2004 profile in Smithsonian magazine by Richard Rhodes, author of John James Audubon: The Making of an American (Vintage Books, 2001).

  7. Hiding in Plain Sight — scholarly article by Roberta Olson about Audubon's early life, making a strong case that his  mother was a white Frenchwoman and NOT an enslaved person of color.

  8. John James Audubon: A Complicated History — short anonymous biography on the National Audubon web site with links to some of the sources critical of Audubon's life and scholarship.

  9. This is the statement by National Audubon in March 2023, about why it decided not to change its name:https://www.audubon.org/news/national-audubon-society-announces-decision-retain-current-name



 

Additional content will be added as it becomes available.

2024 S.A.S.