Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Hastings Law School To Keep Name Despite Founder's Role In Genocide, But Will Partner With Indian Tribe To Redress Past Injustices

Following up on my previous posts:

Sacramento Bee op-ed:  UC Hastings Namesake Killed, Displaced California Tribes. But Changing Name Isn’t Enough, by James Russ (President, Round Valley Indian Tribes) & David L. Faigman (Dean, UC-Hastings):

While no one living today enslaved African Americans or carried out genocide against Native Americans, our world is a product of those past injustices. What do those living today owe for the crimes against humanity perpetrated by their forebearers, of which some may be indirect beneficiaries?

For the two of us, this question is not an academic exercise. One of us, James Russ, is president of the Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT), a Sovereign Nation of Seven Confederated Tribes. The other, David Faigman, is chancellor and dean of UC Hastings Law in San Francisco. Over 150 years ago, the founder of Faigman’s law school promoted and financed expeditions to kill the indigenous population in and around the Eden and Round Valleys in Northern California.

In the mid-19th century, genocide of Native Americans was effectively the official policy of the California and federal governments. Serranus Hastings helped lead these efforts and profited greatly from the killing and displacement of Indigenous peoples. His primary targets were the Yuki Indians — a name bestowed upon them meaning “enemy” in the Wintun language —who were located on lands he claimed as his own. The result was that numerous Yuki were killed and virtually all others were displaced or forced into bondage.

Hastings later became the first chief justice of the California Supreme Court and, in 1878, he donated $100,000 in gold coin for the state to establish the first law department of the University of California in his name. ...

The school entered into conversations with RVIT with no preconditions and, similarly, the RVIT Tribal Council went into the dialogue with eyes open, sensitive to the prospect of empty assurances and unfulfilled promises.

Early on, it became clear that the Hastings name was just one of many issues to resolve. Yet, repeatedly in our conversations, a principal grievance of RVIT representatives was their erasure from California and American history. Erasing the Hastings name would not remedy that continuing insult. ...

We are committed to a process where no outcome, including changing the school’s name, is entirely foreclosed. While we recognize the law school’s name will continue to be an issue on which reasonable people will disagree, RVIT and UC Hastings are aligned in the view that substantive redress of past injustices must be the first priority of this long-term relationship.

Changing the name of the school would be of little benefit to the living descendants of Serranus Hastings’ crimes. These atrocities should not be erased — instead, it should be a societal goal to never forgetting this sordid chapter of American history and the challenges that Native Americans continue to face.

At the present time we are committed to remembering and redressing past injustices and to forging a future path of mutual respect and friendship.

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