To the editor:
My son attended Capt. Charles Wilkes Elementary, named after a sea captain. On March 30, the Bainbridge Island school board voted to rename it x̌alilc (Halilts) Elementary — a rock the Suquamish Nation honors. I’ll bet irreverent students call it Rock or Petro.
There were countless options for another name, one was Suyematsu. Akio Suyematsu was born on Bainbridge and worked with his family to transform 40 acres into a productive farm. Akio and his family did that even with time lost while they were in a Japanese relocation camp in the 1940s.
At age 18, Akio left the camp to become a soldier stationed in West Germany. Akio returned to Bainbridge and worked until he died at age 91. Akio trained young farm workers in the art and science of farming, including maintaining and repairing farm equipment. He created a modern farm that included a winery, grew grapes, strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins, squash, Christmas trees, large landscaper trees and greens that are sold to stores and restaurants on Bainbridge.
Akio helped establish a relationship with Bainbridge High School where students could enroll in courses for credit in farming. The Bainbridge school that is being renamed for a rock is part of the history and lore of the Suquamish Tribe (off-island).
What’s the school in Suquamish’s name? Suquamish Elementary School. Let’s rename that school with a name that honors the Suquamish Tribe and change Wilkes Elementary to Suyematsu Elementary School and honor an outstanding Bainbridge native.