University of California Hastings College of Law is planning to drop the name of founder Serranus Clinton Hastings after a report he “orchestrated” the massacre of hundreds of Native Americans from the Yuki Tribe in that state during the 1850s, the school announced Nov. 2.
“UC Hastings has collaborated with the Yuki People and members of other affected tribes for the last four years in pursuit of restorative justice,” Carl W. “Chip” Robertson (’98), chair of the Board of Directors said in a press release announcing the move. “The goal of our collaborations with the tribes is to bring the educational resources of the College to help address the generational trauma inflicted by Serranus Hastings.
“That work has raised our awareness of the wrongs committed by the college’s namesake and the ongoing pain they cause, and our decision is that we can no longer associate our great institution with his name.”
Hastings, a Democrat, served in the House for Iowa from 1845-’47, and then became the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Iowa in 1848, resigning in 1849 when he moved to California.
While in that state, he became the chief justice of the California Supreme Court from 1849-51, and then became attorney general for the state from 1851-’53 before retiring into private life, according to the U.S. Office of the Historian.
In 1878, he founded and endowed the UC Hastings College of Law with $100,000 in gold coins with the understanding the school would forever bear his name, The New York Times reported Oct. 27.
A four-year investigation into Hastings began in 2017 by Chancellor and Dean David Faigman, who commissioned a historian and established a committee to find out more about the founder’s legacy, according to the school.
That investigation revealed Hastings, who was one of the state’s wealthiest men, masterminded at least one set of Native American massacres during the gold rush, killing hundreds of members of the Yuki Tribe, including a young girl for “stubbornness” the Times reported.
Since learning of Hastings dark past, and connection to one of the Native American massacres that dominated the gold rush, Faigman has been collaborating with impacted tribes to find “restorative justice.”
“Four years ago, I initiated a robust process for engaging Native Californians whose tribes were affected by the deadly acts of Serranus Hastings,” Dean Faigman said in the college’s announcement. “The time has come to recognize that changing the College’s name is an important step in that process. I am committed to working diligently to do so.”
In addition to changing its name, the school is also planning to create an “indigenous law center” and related educational programs, finding “educational opportunities” for students at the school and other UC campuses to provide pro bono assistance to the Native American residents of Round Valley, provide educational opportunities for members of the local Yuki Tribe, and create a memorial to those killed in the violence.
It will take state legislative action to change the name, but Robertson said the change is “critical.”
“With this vote, we authorize UC Hastings leadership to work in good faith with legislators and other stakeholders to change our school’s name,” he said in the school’s release. “We know that some members of our community are attached to the school’s name because of the college’s wonderful 143-year history, unrelated to Serranus Hastings. But this change is a critical step in addressing our founder’s role in Native Californian genocide.”