California tribes applaud as Sutter statue taken down

  • Published on June 16th, 2020

The Statewide Coalition Against Racist Symbols (SCARS) and numerous social justice partners invites the community to celebrate the removal of the John Sutter statue and join a community conversation about ending the glorification of Indigenous genocides to “De-Sutter” Sacramento on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 5 PM, at Sutter Fort State Park in Sacramento. 

By Dan Bacher

“John Sutter’s long history of  terrorizing, raping, killing, enslaving Native people, specifically Nisenan, Miwok, and Maidu, in Sacramento are reasons why taking down his statue was necessary, and why his full name should be removed from any public places, including Sutter’s Fort,” according to a statement from the coalition.

“Watching the Sutter statue removal was powerful, we know the individual and his atrocities toward local Native people,” proclaimed Calvin Hedrick,  Director of The 5th Direction and community organizer for the California Native Vote Project. “As I sat watching the removal I thought of the youth who will have a better understanding of the man and the era.  I also thought about every person who protested against the history that  falsely made him a hero in this community.  This is for them and many are no longer with us but they taught us how to be here.  And here we are!”

“This event is to educate the public about the true history of one of Sacramento’s most celebrated ‘pioneers,’ Capt. John Sutter who is memorialized as a Gold Rush icon and Sacramento founding father, but was actually a cruel and depraved slavemaster,” according to the coalition.

“Sutter began acquiring hundreds of California Native peoples through enslavement from many neighboring communities in order to work at his property which is now Fort Sutter State Park. His peers reported that he used kidnapping, food deprivation and slavery’ to maintain his access to force Indian labor. When Native people resisted his enslavement, he sent armed posses to capture and intimidate runaways,” the coalition stated.

“Being a Native American in Sacramento and seeing the idealization of a person who brought a reign of terror to our local Native tribes (and beyond) is triggering,” stated Vanessa Esquivido (Nor Rel Muk Wintu, Hupa, Xicana) Ph.D. Native American Studies. “I grew up here, learned about Sutter in my primary school education, participated in the field trips to the fort that left me shocked, although did not have the words to express the overt racism I experienced.  Not learning about the stolen land Sutter’s fort sits on, the horror this person brought to our Native populations, the ugly truth of the development of our state, it lingers in our bodies to this day.”

The coalition said Sutter tortured, and executed Native people who resisted, wielding force and power to maintain oppressive systems in a way that parallels modern day police brutality directed at black and brown communities.

The event is free and open to the public. Miwok, Nissenan, Maidu and Tribal peoples who are descendants of Fort Sutter survivors will speak about truth telling, resilience and resistance.


About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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