SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law will work to remove the name of its founder, who sponsored Native American massacres in the 1850s, the board voted on Tuesday.
The vote authorizes one of the country’s leading law schools to work with state lawmakers and others to change the institution’s name.
Hastings Law School was founded in 1878 by Serranus Clinton Hastings, a wealthy rancher and former chairman of the California Supreme Court. Graduates include Vice President Kamala Harris and former California MP and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
However, historians say the school’s founder helped orchestrate and fund campaigns by white settlers in Mendocino County to kill and enslave members of the Yuki Indian tribe when California law introduced lynch mob attacks on Indians along with kidnappings and forced bondage some state legalized leaders openly called a war of extermination.
The expeditions arranged by Hastings resulted in the death of 300 yuki and the government reimbursed him for expenses, including ammunition.
The attacks were part of a three year streak of slaughter and kidnapping by settlers known as the Round Valley Settler Massacres, which by some estimates claimed at least 1,000 Indian lives.
The school began researching Hastings’ heritage in 2017 and is working on “restorative justice” initiatives including a free legal aid program for the Yuki and other tribes, the establishment of an Indigenous Law Center and the creation of a campus memorial for the Yuki people .
“This work has sharpened our awareness of the injustice the college’s namesake did and the ongoing pain it causes, and our decision is that we can no longer associate our great institution with his name,” said Carl Robertson, Chairman of the Board of Directors.
“I’m not particularly proud to have the Hastings name on my license to practice law. There is no forgiveness in that, ”Willie Brown said on the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 2020, the University of California Law School at Berkeley undressed a 19th-century namesake who held racist views that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. John Boalt’s name was removed from a school building after a three year process.
Joseph Cotchett, a litigation attorney and alumnus who donated approximately $ 10 million to the school, told the Chronicle that if the Hastings name persisted, he would get his name from the newly opened Cotchett Law Center.
“As a 55-year-old Hastings alumnus, I will do everything in my power to change the name and honor the Indian tribes that have been massacred and exploited,” said Cotchett.
However, the Hastings name for the college is incorporated into state law and cannot be changed without first changing the law.
Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is expected to introduce such legislation perhaps next week, the Chronicle said.
“Hastings definitely needs a name change,” said Wiener. “The idea of this institution being named after someone who exterminated Native Americans is untenable. It’s child’s play for me. “
Natasha Medel, a descendant of Yuki, thanked the college board for their decision on Tuesday.
“I look forward to standing with you and doing what is right for my people,” she said.
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