COURTESY PHOTO, Federal Way Public Schools

COURTESY PHOTO, Federal Way Public Schools

Evergreen Middle School in Kent celebrates healing, renaming ceremony

Federal Way Public School’s previous name of Totem considered culturally insensitive

Dozens of students, community members, tribal members and elected officials gathered to celebrate the renaming and healing ceremony of Evergreen Middle School, the former Totem Middle School.

Evergreen, 26630 40th Ave. South in Kent, has been renamed in accordance with House Bill 1356, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in April, which prohibits “inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names,” according to the bill. The school’s mascot is now the Grizzlies.

The school’s previous name, Totem, and its mascot of the Thunderbirds are retired due to their inappropriate and hurtful use, said Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Dani Pfeiffer at the Dec. 10 ceremony. The school is in the city of Kent but part of the Federal Way school district.

“Names are important and powerful,” Pfeiffer said. “Our names are part of who we are and our stories. Names connect us to those who came before us. Names are earned and not taken.”

The change was a long time coming, she said, adding that the renaming process marked an opportunity for the district to “listen, learn and do better.”

Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Anna Bean, whose Indian name is Way Over There, said a totem pole is a significant monument for storytelling.

A totem pole is “a story pole to our people,” she said. “[It’s] how we told stories of what occurred and what’s to come, wrapped in prayers and love for the people.”

Anna Bean said there is no ill will against the ancestors who named the school years ago as “it’s a beautiful thing to acknowledge the stories of the land, the people and the Earth.”

However, the new name acknowledges the beauty of the surrounding land we see daily, she said, and shows the school district understands the wrongs of the past.

David Bean, a four-time council member and former tribal chair of the Puyallup Tribe, reminded the audience that tribal communities are still here.

“We are all in different stages of healing and this is an important step toward healing our Native American relatives,” he said, adding that society is now becoming more aware of the unjust treatment native people face and working to correct those injustices.

“We’re survivors,” he said. “We’re on our healing journey.”

He also commended the school district for approaching the renaming and healing process in a loving, healthy and respectful way.

Anna Bean and David Bean performed a coastal song with the song’s creator, William Johnny. They performed a Power Song, created by tribal member David Duenas, and a Warrior Song, gifted to the Puyallup Tribe by a Chief Leschi Schools graduate.

Evergreen students shared their native names with the audience before the Thomas Jefferson Native Drums Club performed powwow songs in a drum circle.

Federal Way resident Raymond Kingfisher, a Northern Cheyenne Nation member, spoke about equality among all people, and honing a deep respect for Mother Earth in order to leave the world better for future generations. Kingfisher led the students of the drum circle.

The attendees of the event also participated in a round dance, coming together to heal, honor and celebrate life.

“We are all equal when we are in a circle,” said David Herrera, executive director of scholar learning, academic programs, and staff development.

Cienai Wright-Wilkins, executive director of equity for scholar and family success for Federal Way Public Schools, said the renaming process involved over 600 students, hundreds of parents and community members, and the Native American Parent Advisory Committee. She said the district created additional lesson plans to educate students on the importance of the name change and cultural sensitivity.

To view the ceremony, visit

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

People at the event participated in a round dance while listening to a drum circle led by Federal Way resident Raymond Kingfisher. COURTESY PHOTO, Federal Way Public Schools

People at the event participated in a round dance while listening to a drum circle led by Federal Way resident Raymond Kingfisher. COURTESY PHOTO, Federal Way Public Schools

More in News

Kent City Council adds two more areas to no racing zone

East Valley Highway and South 180th Street; Kent-Kangley Road and 132nd Avenue SE

Kent city officials remind residents personal fireworks illegal

City Council adopted ban in 2016; violators subject to fine

Ella Chau. COURTESY PHOTO, AAA Washington
Kent student makes School Safety Patrol Hall of Fame

AAA Washington honors Glenridge Elementary School’s Ella Chau

Juneteenth celebration in Kent set for Saturday, June 17

Event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kent YMCA on East Hill

Average annual salaries of the King County police departments’ top 15 paid employees per department (By Benjamin Leung)
How much are South King County police chiefs earning?

This analysis breaks down the salaries between police chiefs in Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent and Renton.

Responders lowered a raft from a 200-foot bridge over the Green River Gorge to help rescue the missing kayakers. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Fire.
3 kayakers rescued from Green River Gorge

Puget Sound Fire released a statement after the late evening rescue that lakes and rivers are still extremely cold this time of year.

Firefighters rescue man from second floor in Maple Valley house fire | Correction

Update: Puget Sound Fire initially reported that the fire had been in Kent, which was incorrect

Kent Police arrest man for reportedly using machete to threaten another man

Father of the man’s girlfriend approached man looking for his daughter prior to threat

Kent School District honors 12 employees of the year

Top teacher, principal, bus driver, coach, paraeducator and more

Most Read