Dropping the Name Audubon
June 30, 2023
Dear Members and Friends,
The board of directors of Jayhawk Audubon Society has voted to change the name of our chapter to better reflect our values as an inclusive and welcoming group dedicated to birds and the habitats on which they depend. A process to choose a new name is underway and we will invite participation from our members and the wider community.
At our board retreat on June 8, the board voted unanimously to drop the name honoring John James Audubon, who has been revealed as a racist who enslaved people and robbed Native American graves.
Beginning in 2020, National Audubon Society published several articles about Audubon the enslaver and anti-abolitionist. In 2022, the national organization undertook a year-long process of surveying members about whether to drop the name Audubon. In March 2023, the National Audubon board voted to retain the name.
We at Jayhawk Audubon were surprised and disappointed by National Audubon’s decision and we hope it will be revisited in the future. For our chapter, based in a city that was founded by abolitionists and which is home to Haskell Indian Nations University, keeping Audubon as our namesake is unacceptable. Our organization will be better served going forward with a name that does not present an obstacle to anyone in our community. We welcome everyone with an interest in birds and nature.
When announcing its decision to retain the Audubon name, National Audubon said that local chapters are free to change their names and still remain part of the nationwide network, which includes more than 450 local chapters. At least six large chapters have already voted to change their names, as has the union that represents Audubon staff members.
We want to emphasize that our action is not a criticism of those who founded Jayhawk Audubon Society in 1970. We understand why our chapter initially chose to adopt the name of the national organization. However, recent national commentary and discussions about John James Audubon's life accompanied by facts derived from historical documents and scholarly research resulted in the need to revisit our chapter's name and our reasons for keeping it.
We encourage everyone to become familiar with the issues that led the board to take this name-change decision. You can find the background here:
In addition, we have created an FAQ page about the name change, which we hope will answer any additional questions you might have.
We are excited to embark on the process of changing our name, which is sure to begin the next chapter of our organization. A name change committee will meet this summer to decide the process for choosing a new name and we will be in touch again soon to solicit your input. In the meantime, all the important work of the organization continues—remember that all of our activities are always free and open to everyone, so please join us for field trips and educational programs.
Thank you, and happy birding!
The 2023 and 2024 members of the board:
Debbie Baker, Kelly Barth, Roger Boyd, Jim Bresnahan, Lynn Byczynski, Vanessa Carlos, Pam Chaffee, Kristine Latta, Lowen Millspaugh, Betty Lou Peckham, Joseph Rogers, Kim Sain, Sandy Sanders, Kaitlin Stanley, Samantha Stopple