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.
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.
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.
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.