SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The University of California Hastings College of Law will work to remove the name of its founder, who sponsored massacres of Native Americans in the 1850s, the board of trustees voted on Tuesday.
The vote allows one of the country’s main law schools to work with state lawmakers and others to change the name of the institution.
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Hastings Law School was founded in 1878 by Serranus Clinton Hastings, a wealthy breeder and former chief justice of the Supreme Court of California. Its graduates include Vice President Kamala Harris and former California Assembly Member and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
But 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 at a time when California law legalized lynching gang attacks on Indians as well as kidnappings and forced servitude in what some ruling states have openly called a war of extermination.
The expeditions organized by Hastings resulted in the deaths of 300 Yuki, and the government reimbursed him for expenses, including ammunition.
The attacks were part of a three-year series of massacres and kidnappings by settlers known as the Round Valley Settler Massacres which, by some estimates, claimed the lives of at least 1,000 Indians.
The school began investigating Hastings’ legacy in 2017 and worked on “restorative justice” initiatives, including a free legal aid program for Yuki and other tribes, by founding a law center. indigenous peoples and creating a campus memorial for the Yuki people.
“This work has made us aware of the wrongs committed by the college’s namesake and the continuing pain they cause, and our decision is that we can no longer associate our great institution with its name,” said Carl Robertson, who chairs the board of directors. .
“I’m not very proud to have the Hastings name on my lawyer license. There’s no forgiveness in that, ”Willie Brown said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
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Joseph Cotchett, a litigator and former student who donated around $ 10 million to the school, told The Chronicle that if Hastings’ name remained, he would remove his name from his new Cotchett Law Center.
“I will do everything in my power as a 55 year alumnus of Hastings to change the name and honor the Indian tribes who have been slaughtered and exploited,” Cotchett said.
However, the college’s Hastings name is enshrined in state law and cannot be changed without first amending the law.
State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is expected to introduce such legislation, possibly next week, the Chronicle said.
“Hastings definitely needs a name change,” Wiener said. “The idea that this institution bears the name of someone who exterminated the Amerindians is untenable. For me, this is obvious.
Natasha Medel, a descendant of Yuki, thanked the university’s board on Tuesday for its decision.
“I can’t wait to stand next to you and do what’s right for my people,” she said.
In 2020, the University of California, Berkeley Law School stripped itself of a 19th-century namesake who espoused the 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.
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