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San Franciso Law School Named After Man Behind State-Sponsored Native American Genocide in Round Valley Will Change Its Name

Members of the Yuki tribe in Nome Cult farm [Picture provided by WikiCommons]

Mendocino County’s brutal history of Native American genocide has made recent national news as a prestigious, public law school in San Francisco known as the University of California, Hastings College of Law contends with the legacy of the school’s namesake, Serranus Hastings. 

Hastings was California’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1849, owner of significant land holdings in Mendocino County, and the promoter and financier of the Round Valley Settler Massacres of 1856-1859.

A press release from the UC Hastings Law indicates that the school’s Board of Directors voted to change the college’s name due to its namesake who “perpetrated genocidal acts against Native Californians in the 1850s in the Round and Eden valleys.”

SF Gate reporter Mike Moffitt gave a gruesome overview of Hastings’ historical role in the destruction of the Yuki people in Round Valley in his article entitled “Hastings Law balks at name change despite founder’s role in genocide.” Hastings settled in California during the Gold Rush and laid claim to most of what is now Mendocino County’s Eden Valley. 

Serranus C. Hastings [Picture part of public doman and accessed via Wikipedia]

Hastings hired H.L. Hall, also known as “Texas Boy” Hall to run the ranch. Hall, who was described as 6′ 9” and 280 pounds, was said to mistreat the 50 Yuki who worked at the ranch. At one point, native me, hired to haul loads 40 miles, killed Hastings’ favorite white stallion after “Texas Boy” did not pay them the shirt they were promised in return for their labors.

Hastings, later on, would claim the native men slaughtered the horse for meat. Enraged at the loss of his favorite horse, Hastings is said to have committed to ridding Mendocino County of its native populations. Hastings had Hall and a group of other men begin killing “all the Indians they could find on the mountains.” While hunting natives, the group allegedly poisoned a rancheria’s food stock with strychnine.

Yuki Indian photographed in 1900 stored at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe a Hearst Museum of Anthropology

Hall testified in 1860 to the treatment of Native women and children where he said things like “infants were put out of their misery, and a girl 10 years of age was killed for stubbornness.” 

Hastings, to bolster his efforts to rid Mendocino County of its native inhabitants, had California Governor John B. Weller approve the formation of a militia in 1859 to execute Yuki and other Round Valley Tribes.

As settlers trickled into Round Valley, Hastings organized what Moffett characterized as “death squads” led by Walter S. Jarobe that targeted Tribes in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties. The Eel River Raiders, led by Jarobe and including “Texas Boy” Hall and 20 other men, raided native settlements killing an estimated 1,000 Mendocino tribespeople over a six-month period. 

Yuki Indian photographed in 1900 stored at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe a Hearst Museum of Anthropology

The Eel River Raiders were said to enter native settlements early in the morning and begin firing upon any native they could find including children, women, and men of the Yuki, Wailacki, and other tribes.

Currently, along with the name change, the press release from UC Hastings indicates the school will establish an Indigenous Law center, working to provide pro bono legal representation to residents of Round Valley, working to support Round Valley students of the Yuki People with educational opportunities, and creating a public memorial on the campus.

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13 replies »

  1. Historians, journalists and news reporters should be required to thoroughly cite and document their sources for events this ugly. I’m not trying to dispute anything, just want the details authenticated so it’s not too easy to spread false information. It’s almost the year 2022 and this event is just now coming to light ?

  2. Before any name change it needs to go to a vote of the state/city. Stop these few from making our decisions

  3. We had a good book Genocide and Vendetta. Check it out, it’s a disturbing and gut wrenching read…oh sorry you can’t because it was banned!! Whitey don’t like to remember the past. I’m sure there were plenty that wanted to ban Zinn’s books as well. There is no way to right these wrongs but ceasing to celebrate the evils of our past is a good start! IMHO

    • Thank you, I was hoping someone would mention that book and the fact that it is in fact banned. As far as other more accessible references I’d look to Bruce at The AVA. For decades now The AVA has been one of the few media outlets that has been committed to not forgetting or hiding these atrocities.

      Other thoughts:

      Are there now a bunch of lawyers looking at their proudly displayed diplomas and wondering if they should still be on the wall?

      It’s depressing to think that it is almost inevitable that when school merch is dumped en masse some will end up being used as propaganda or fetishized in some way by more sinister corners of the far right.

    • I don’t know why human beings run from the historical facts. This is well documented. Hastings Law School would not give up its namesake were the facts not rubbed in their “wokie” faces. The dominant culture is not being cancelled. The previous indigenous culture is no more. There is no statue to tumble from its pediment. The European settlers have all the land. No one expects that to be returned. So, how hard is it to say mea culpa??

  4. The native massacres where real, just like the lynchings and systemic racism that is the untaught history of this nation. What better time than now to acknowledge that many of our founding settlers were greed driven murderers, hellbent on genocide. But as usual the lies of the father are passed to the son and then onto the next generation…

  5. There’s a book called ancestry lost (unless I’m mistaken) that you can read parts of on Google scholar or Google books that has quite a bit of information about what happened in Humboldt and Mendocino to the natives. I was looking up my tribes history and came across it (konkow valley band of maidu). Apparently they used quite a few natives as slaves and covered that up as well.

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