The University of California Hastings School of Law board voted to remove the name of its founder, who sponsored massacres of Native Americans in the 1850s.
The vote authorizes one of the nation’s leading law schools to work with state legislators and others to change the institution’s name.
Hastings Law College was founded in 1878 by Cyranos Clinton Hastings, a wealthy farmer and former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Its alumni include Vice President Kamala Harris and former California House of Representatives and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown
But historians say the school’s founder helped organize and finance campaigns by white settlers in Mendocino County to kill and enslave members of the Yoki Indian tribe at a time when California law legalized gang attacks on Indians along with kidnapping and forced slavery in some states. The leaders openly called a war of annihilation.
The campaigns arranged by Hastings resulted in the deaths of 300 Yuki, and the government reimbursed him for expenses, including ammunition.
The attacks were part of a three-year series of massacres and kidnappings by settlers known as the Round Valley Settler massacres that claimed the lives of at least 1,000 Indians by some estimates.
The school began investigating Hastings’ legacy in 2017 and has worked on “correctional justice” initiatives including the Free Legal Aid Program for the Yuki and Other Tribes, the founding of the Aboriginal Law Center and the creation of a monument to the Yuki people.
said Carl Robertson, who chairs the board of directors.
“I’m not too proud to have the Hastings name on my law license. There’s no forgiveness in this,” Willie Brown said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 2020, UC Berkeley Law School stripped itself of a 19th-century eponym that embraced racist views that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. John Boalt’s name was removed from the schoolhouse after a three-year process.
Joseph Cochet, an attorney and alumnus who has donated about $10 million to the school, told the Chronicle that if Hastings’ name remains, he will withdraw his name from the newly opened Cochette Law Center.
“I will do everything in my power as a 55-year graduate of Hastings to change the name, and honor the Indian tribes who have been slaughtered and exploited,” Cochet said.
However, the Hastings name for the college is enshrined in state law and cannot be changed without first changing the law.
The Chronicle said state Senator Scott Weiner, a Democrat from San Francisco, is expected to introduce such legislation, possibly next week.
“Hastings definitely needs a name change,” Weiner said. “The idea of naming this institution after someone who exterminated a Native American is untenable. To me, that is a no-brainer.”
Natasha Medel, a descendant of Yuki, thanked the College Board on Tuesday for his decision.
“I look forward to standing by you and doing what is right for my people,” she said.