Friday, 19 July 2024

Tribes whose ancestors were slaughtered by Hastings back bill giving them a voice in renaming San Francisco law school

SACRAMENTO — Leaders of the Yuki and Round Valley tribes urged an Assembly committee on Tuesday to ensure they have a say in rebranding a prestigious San Francisco law school named for a notorious land speculator and politician responsible for slaughtering their ancestors in the mid-1800s by approving AB 1936, introduced by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland).

AB 1936 would rename the University of California Hastings College of the Law and include restorative justice provisions.

The college was named for Serranus Clinton Hastings who hired private militias that massacred the Yuki and Round Valley people in the 1850s so he could steal their lands.

Hastings then used his wealth, derived in part from the slaughter, to become California’s first Supreme Court chief justice and attorney general.

Ramos is the first California Native American elected to the Legislature in the state’s 172-year history, The lawmaker is a lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation whose own clan was almost exterminated in the 1800s by similar militias in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Yuki and Round Valley tribal descendants asked Ramos to help them rename the college which the Legislature created in 1878 when it approved a law creating and supporting the law school.

The 1878 Legislature also approved naming it for Hastings after he contributed $100,000 in gold coins toward funding the college.

“My bill requires the law school, in consultation with the Yuki and Round Valley Indian tribes’ descendants, to rename the campus,” Ramos said. “It allows for a transparent and inclusive rebranding process. For too long, exclusion of Native Americans from decisions affecting them has been the norm. No one in the Legislature asked the Yuki or Round Valley people if Hastings was a good name for the law school in the 19th Century,” Ramos said. “Hastings hired militias to kill Native Americans in Mendocino County and took their land to build his wealth. Afterward, he used his fortune to give money to found the school and bear his name. So, in a very real sense the founding of the law college was paid for by the suffering of the Yuki and Round Valley people. It is time in the 21st Century to remedy this grievous injustice.”

Ramos added, “AB 1936 guarantees a collaboration between the tribes and the college in selecting a new name and in undertaking initiatives, some already underway, to mitigate past atrocities. Rather than just changing the letterhead, my bill is also about making sure the Round Valley and Yuki people feel heard, so their history and suffering are not dismissed. This is a crucial step toward healing a traumatic history and rectifying wrongs that were never remedied.”

“We cannot let a prominent institution that teaches about law and justice continue to be associated with a person who committed atrocious actions against Native Americans. This bill ensures that the Round Valley Indian Tribe and Yuki people get a seat at the table as the university finds a new name,” said Joint Co-Author Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).

Yuki Committee Vice Chair to the Round Valley Indian Tribes Tribal Council Mona Oandasan said, “We stand behind AB 1936 because it ensures our inclusion in the selection of a new name for the school. Renaming the law college without the inclusion of our voices is dismissive and offensive and would bypass the difficult conversations that must continue. Last November, the school’s board of directors approved a rebranding of the school, and now the Legislature must also act.”

“I support the continued discussions on this issue and the leadership of Assemblymember Ramos in ensuring that the voices of California’s First People are included in the selection of a new name for the College of the Law,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said.

“Approval of AB 1936 allows the Legislature and state of California to make amends for their role in sanctioning and rewarding the barbarities Hastings committed more than a century and a half ago,” said James Russ, president of the Round Valley Tribal Council. “It is never too late to try to correct a wrong. Hastings’ actions almost exterminated our people and separated families from the lands where they had lived for millennia. Through approval of AB 1936, we hope that along with the school we can reach consensus on a name that honors our ancestors and does not let us forget the high price they paid in its creation.”

Ramos applauds the law school for engaging with the Yuki and Round Valley tribes to acknowledge its founder’s brutal history, for undertaking restorative justice initiatives and its recent agreement to rename the college.

AB 1936 “restorative justice” amendments include having the college:

- Form a nonprofit organization with the descendants’ tribal governments to help in raising capital, organizing pro bono legal assistance and other support for tribal members, to assist tribal leadership with federal, state and county matters, water and property rights, economic development, and efforts to meet the social needs of the community.

- Dedicate a permanent public memorial to the Yuki people on campus that includes historical explanations and cultural presentations.

- Create an Indian Law Program and related academic and education programs at the college available to all students interested in Indian law.

- Assist with efforts to preserve Yuki history.

- Provide financial assistance for Yuki descendants to attend postsecondary educational programs.

- Provide outreach and support so Yuki students can attend the law college.

- Assist with repatriation of tribal remains and artifacts.

- Submit reports on the progress of achieving these measures to the Assembly Committee on Higher Education and the Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs.

AB 1936 is sponsored by the Round Valley Indian Tribes. Supporters also include the Barona Band of Mission Indians, California Nations Indian Gaming Association, Cahto Tribe, Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Tule River Tribe, UC Hastings Alumni for Justice and Accountability, and the Yurok Tribe.

Coauthors include Assemblymembers Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), Isaac Bryan (D-Jefferson Park), Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Carlos Villeda (R-Stockton), and Senators Bob Archuleta (D-Norwalk) and Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach).

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