Xoots Elementary image for Baranof Renaming Mar 8

Xóots Elementary School

Tlingit "Brown Bear" Gives New Name for Baranof School


According to a March 8, 2024 article by KCAW’s Robert Woolsey,

“Baranof Elementary School in Sitka has a new name. The Sitka School Board voted unanimously on Thursday (3-6-24) to make the change, culminating a lengthy discussion on a different-yet-related topic: The need to make cultural education a more immersive experience in Sitka for everyone.

Nine years after the issue was first brought before the Sitka School Board, the time to change the name of Baranof Elementary came at just after 10 p.m.

‘It has been moved and seconded to select Xóots Elementary School as the new name for Baranof Elementary School,’ said school board president Tristan Guevin putting the question on the table, where it was adopted unanimously with little discussion from either the board, or the ten or so members of the public who waited out the long meeting at the Sheet’ká Ḵwáan Naa Kahídi — Sitka’s tribal community house.


Xóots, by the way, means “brown bear,” and the raspy “h” sound at the beginning of the word is represented with an “X.”

The person who spearheaded the committee meetings and community surveys that led to the name change was former board president Blossom Teal-Olsen. Teal-Olsen left the school board ten months ago, but stayed engaged with this project, because she may have been the only person who could bring the name change about. Alaska Native, yet not Lingít, Teal-Olsen steered past the cultural conflict that led to the defeat of a previous name change two years ago.

She complimented everyone who helped, and their bravery for moving forward, when it may have been easier to stop.

‘It hasn’t been an easy road,” said Teal-Olsen, “and I think there was a point where you’re thinking maybe we should table it and keep it on the table.’