Neighborhood Name Change FAQ

NEIGHBORHOOD INCLUSION TASK FORCE

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated August 2, 2021


What is the Neighborhood Inclusion Task Force (NITF), and what does it do?

The NITF is an official committee established by the board of our neighborhood association, ISCA.

The committee includes approximately 12 residents who have volunteered to determine the extent of interest and support for a name change among members of the neighborhood; to facilitate civil conversation about the neighborhood name; and to determine the process by which the neighborhood’s name might be changed.

In addition, in the long run, the NITF will be tasked with facilitating other efforts to make our neighborhood inclusive for all.

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Why are we discussing a change to the name of our neighborhood?

For years, some neighborhood residents have voiced concerns about the name “Indian Spring.” 

Some of those concerns center on the use of the word “Indian.” The term “Indian” was imposed externally on Indigenous people. Throughout history, the term has had problematic connotations for many (though not all) members of the Indigenous community, particularly when used by those who are not members of that community. Some neighbors consider the word racist.

Other concerns center on the full name of our neighborhood, the racist history and origins of which are troubling. The name invokes the problematic trope of “magical Indians” who supposedly used a nearby spring with mystical healing properties. That myth appears to have been an invention of the colonizers who displaced the Indigenous tribes who once lived here.

Others have raised a few different concerns. Some Southeast Asian residents, for example, have expressed their own concerns about the use of the word “Indian.” Some residents have registered concerns about property values. Others have heard concerns about the diminished appeal of our neighborhood, given its name, to potential new residents.

Moreover, we have all seen the recent renaming of Cleveland’s baseball team and Washington’s football team, among others, and the elimination of Indigenous mascots from various sports team identities. Those changes have inspired questions and concerns.

Given all of those concerns, many neighbors believe that the name of our neighborhood stands at odds with who we are and who we hope to become: a supportive and diverse community open to all.

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What if I don’t think the term “Indian” is racist?  

The NITF has heard from a number of residents who do not consider the term “Indian” to be racist. Several have pointed, for example, to the National Museum of the American Indian or to individual Indigenous people who do not consider the term to be racist.

At the same time, the NITF has also heard from a number of residents who consider the term to be problematic at best, and racist at worst, as we have outlined above.

Many neighbors don’t think it’s appropriate to rely on consensus—either among the residents of our neighborhood or, for that matter, among the members of the Indigenous community—to determine whether or not a particular term is racist. Their belief is that even if only a few residents of our community are offended by the name, or consider it racist, their concerns are sufficient to warrant a name change.

At the same time, the members of the NITF acknowledge and respect the diversity of opinion and understanding on this question, and we do not intend to try to change anyone’s mind.

At the end of the day, we recognize that there almost certainly won’t be universal agreement on this particular question, and that’s okay. Our goal is for the community to be able to discuss its differences of opinion civilly, assuming the good faith of all participants and making space for all viewpoints as we determine whether and how to move forward. We want to hear from all sides on this issue.

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Have we discussed the question with members of the Indigenous community?

We have reached out to multiple Maryland-based organizations that represent Indigenous people, including bands of the Piscataway tribe. (See the note below about the history of the land on which our neighborhood was built.)

Natalie Proctor, the Tribal Chair of the Cedarville Band of the Piscataway

  • Indian is a word associated with savagery (lacking restraints, normal to civilized human beings, not domesticated).”
  • Indian first and foremost does not identify the Indigenous humans of this land.”
  • Indian does not acknowledge or honor the original humans’ sacrifices or give credit to those creative, wise, intelligent, compassionate, kind, giving people.”
  • Indian does nothing to help the descendants of these original humans who have been fighting for hundreds of years to eliminate the images and names and/or to correct deliberate historical inaccuracies.”

Chief Billy Redwing Tayac, Hereditary Chief of the Piscataway People

  • “Very grateful to be asked and to have the conversation.”
  • Does not consider the word Indian to be a slur, but he understands that some do, so he worked hard to get rid of the Washington Football Team name, and believes the Cleveland baseball team name was offensive, too.

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What is the history of the land on which our neighborhood was built?

Our neighborhood sits on land that once belonged to Indigenous people. Specifically, our part of what we now call Maryland is the ancestral homeland of the Piscataway and Conoy peoples. (You can learn more about the Indigenous stewards of our land, and other parts of the world, here.) The Piscataway were forcibly displaced from their land.

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What is the origin of the name of our neighborhood?

In 1871, a farmer named George Beale sold a tract of land in what is now Woodmoor that he referred to as being adjacent to “Beale’s Indian Spring farm.” The property was sold several times, and in 1914 it was described as having “the largest and finest spring in Maryland.” At that point in the area’s history, legends about Indigenous use of the land began to spring up.

In 1921, a group of businessmen working under the name of the Silver Spring Golf Club purchased the land that would become our neighborhood. To distinguish themselves from the name Silver Spring, they decided to rename their organization the Indian Spring Club, claiming those Indigenous legends for themselves. Developers used an appropriated image of an Indigenous person drinking from a spring to market both the club and the eventual housing developments built nearby.

In 1940, a developer named A.S. Kay bought the golf club and eliminated half of it to build what he called, on the plats he filed, Indian Spring Club Estates. Kay eventually built most of the homes in our neighborhood. Like the others before him, he capitalized on problematic imagery of Indigenous people to sell homes.

In addition, he affirmatively reinforced Jim Crow-era segregation by excluding Black, Indigenous, and other people of color from buying homes in his newly-built neighborhood. Kay filed the remaining plats for Indian Spring Hills, Indian Spring Manor, and Indian Spring Terrace.

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Why is the name of our neighborhood an issue for people now?

While some of us may be considering this issue now for the first time, the NITF has heard from residents for whom the name has been a serious concern for a long time.

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What does it mean to “change the name of our neighborhood?”

Legally speaking, the “Indian Spring” neighborhood doesn’t exist. Instead, the area between Colesville Road and University Boulevard and the beltway and Franklin Ave (west of Flower Avenue) and Dearborn Avenue (east of Flower Avenue) is divided into 13 plats. These plats vary in size. For example, the smallest includes only four households, while the largest includes 208 households. The plats themselves have legal names: Indian Spring Club Estates, Indian Spring Hills, Indian Spring Terrace, Indian Spring Manor, and Seven Oaks. Those are the names that can be changed.

You can view a full list of homes and plats here.

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What is the legal process for changing the name of the neighborhood?

According to the pro bono attorney who met with members of the NITF:

  1. First, a potential new name must be chosen.
  2. Next, all 800 households in the neighborhood will be notified about the motion to change the names of the 13 plats that make up our neighborhood.
  3. Volunteers will then go house to house and ask homeowners whether they are interested in signing the official petition to change the name on the plat that includes their particular house. The petition will include the proposed new name of the community. Each homeowner will thus have a “vote” on whether to change the name of their particular plat or not.
  4. If more than 50% of the homeowners in a given plat sign the petition, the change goes into effect. It can go into effect for some plats, but not for others.

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What about renters?

By law, only homeowners are allowed to participate in this process.

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Who will decide whether to change the name of the neighborhood?

Per the process above, the decision will be made by individual neighborhood homeowners. It will not be made by the NITF or by the neighborhood association.

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My home is in the Seven Oaks plat within the association boundary. Do I get to participate?

Yes.

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Will there be a vote?

There will not be a vote, but (as laid out in the process above) every homeowner will be able to decide individually whether to sign a petition, if one is circulated.

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I don’t like this process, can we use a different one?

According to the attorneys we have consulted, we are legally required to use this process. If we determine that other options exist, we will consider them.

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What is the process for choosing a new name?

The NITF has yet to discuss that question. If you would like to suggest a method, you can send your thoughts to the NITF at NITF.ISCA@gmail.com. We would love to hear from members of the community.

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How can I suggest new names for the neighborhood?

Please feel free to send any suggestions on that front to the NITF at NITF.ISCA@gmail.com. Again, we would love to hear from members of the community.

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Will changing the name of the neighborhood mean changing street names?

Several neighbors have noted that some of our local streets are named after Indigenous tribes. In addition, Indian Spring and East Indian Spring also use the word “Indian.” Those names were chosen by the original developers to support their overall marketing of our community via appropriated culture. Some find those names problematic as well. However, the process for changing the name of the neighborhood will have absolutely no effect on street names. Changing street names is a separate process that would need to be led by the residents of those streets themselves.

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Will changing the name of the neighborhood mean changing the name of our neighborhood association?

Changing the name of our neighborhood association would be a separate process governed by the association’s bylaws.

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How much will this cost the neighborhood?

Nothing. The NITF has had initial conversations with an attorney on a pro bono basis to understand the process we’d have to follow. Members of our community have offered to donate funds to cover any additional costs, should we decide to move forward. There would be no cost to the community or to the neighborhood association.

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Is this really the best use of our time? I would prefer that we work on a different issue.

One thing that has become clear through this process is that our neighborhood is full of people who care deeply about our community and have many ideas about how to best contribute to it. The existence of the NITF does not prevent any other groups from working together to address different issues. If you would like to focus time and resources on a particular issue, we encourage you to do so. 

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How are we assessing, generally, how residents feel about this issue?

The NITF is committed to hearing from as many residents as possible on this issue, whether they are in favor of the name change, opposed to the name change, haven’t thought about the issue, or are on the fence. So far, the NITF has held one community listening session. We also led a conversation as part of the most recent association board meeting. We may facilitate additional conversations in the coming months.

We are aware, however, that many people do not have the time or resources to attend those sessions and that many people may not feel comfortable speaking out in public. We are therefore considering different methods of outreach to connect with residents. If you have any suggestions, or if you would like to share your thoughts via email, you can reach the NITF at NITF.ISCA@gmail.com.

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Where are we in this process? What are the next steps?

The NITF is currently compiling the notes from our community conversation. The NITF will be meeting soon to discuss the issues raised at that session and determine what our next steps should be. After that meeting we will circulate notes to the community.

We anticipate that this will not be a quick process. We all have full plates, and we believe this process should not be rushed. The NITF also feels strongly that no one should be “railroaded” either by those in favor of a name change or those opposed. We want our community conversations about this issue to be full and open and to bring us all closer to each other. We also want to hear from everyone willing to engage.

Although we are here to support the discussion itself, at the end of the day, the homeowners in our community will decide this issue, not the NITF.

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