Spanning some 600 acres of forest land with sunny meadows and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from soaring cliffs, the natural beauty of Patrick’s Point State Park belies the heinous acts of the man it bears the name.
But that will probably change very soon.
On September 30, the State Parks and Recreation Commission will consider a recommendation to formally designate the unit that stretches from northern Trinidad to Agate Beach as Sue-meg State Park. , conveying the descriptor used by the Yurok people for the region’s protruding peninsula. at the request of the tribe.
“We fully support the renaming of Patrick’s Point State Park to Sue-meg State Park. It is no longer acceptable to name significant places after murderers of Indigenous peoples,” said the President of the Yurok Tribe, Joseph L. James, in a recent statement on the recommendation. “We are asking the community to accept the name change as it will ensure that the next generation inherits a more just world.”
If approved, the name change will be the first of a state park as part of California’s “Reexamining Our Past Initiative,” which was launched by the state last year in response to what California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot described as “historic names that stem from a dark legacy that includes discrimination, violence and inequity.”
Other changes that have already taken place locally as part of the initiative include the removal of the Madison Grant Forest Marker and Elk Refuge posed for the founder of the Save the Redwoods League who also promoted “racist laws.” , anti-Asian, eugenic and anti-miscegenation, âaccording to state parks. It has been replaced by an interpretation panel. In a similar vein, another interpretive panel was placed in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Founders’ Grove in 2020 to address the links between the Save the Redwoods League and eugenics, and disavow racist ideology.
The âReexamine Our Pastâ initiative builds on Governor Gavin Newsom’s formal apology in 2019 for the state’s systemic role in attempting to genocide and destroy indigenous communities – including taking their traditional lands – which also set up the formation of the tribal-led group. Truth and Healing Council to âCorrect the Historical Record and Recognize Wrongdoingâ.
When ownership on Yurok’s ancestral lands was transferred to California State Park nearly 100 years ago, the area was already well known as Patrick’s Point in reference to Patrick Beegan – a murderous settler who filed a brief claim there in 1851 when the discovery of gold brought an influx of fortune hunters climbing into the area. The name therefore stuck.
Beegan, however, after just a few years lost the site where he had built a cabin as he fled law enforcement after being implicated by several witnesses in the murder of a Yurok boy, according to a report by ‘a state park. An 1854 Crescent City Herald The article cited by the report also describes him as having “committed numerous outrages against Indians around Trinidad over the past year”.
From there, Beegan reportedly traveled to the Bald Hills area, but then led “a militia into a Native American village” that he encountered “to a place known as Christmas Prairie, about 30 miles to the east of Eureka. The place got its name from a massacre there on Christmas Day in 1864, “the state parks report states. Beegan was allegedly killed by Native Americans at a spring near Hart’s Prairie.
“We have long known that Patrick Beegan was one of the many colonizers who participated in the massacres of Native American peoples, including women and children,” said Rosie Clayburn, head of Yurok tribal heritage preservation, in the tribal release. âI would like to thank the California State Parks North Coast Redwoods District for correcting this injustice and for using the place name Sue-meg, a name that has been used since time immemorial. The proposed name change represents a positive step in the right way.”
Patrick’s Point is by no means the only local place with, as Newspaper report (âControversial Place Names in Humboldt County,â July 17, 2015) describes an âignominious eponymyâ – many of which are named after men who participated in the 1860 massacre on Tuluwat Island, such as Larabee Valley, as well as others that contain racist remarks or sexist insults.
And the decision now before the California State Parks Commission comes amid a larger and ongoing national debate over renaming military bases, cities, schools, parks and other places to replace derogatory terms or references to persons linked to slavery, institutional discrimination and violent oppression.
Earlier this month, for example, Squaw Valley – the true Californian ski resort with Olympic pedigree – dropped its “derogatory and offensive” name in consultation with the local Washoe tribe to become Palisades Tahoe. (County of Humboldt, as Newspaper noted in our 2015 history, is home to three streams that bear the same ‘derogatory and offensive’ name.) Closer to home, the town of Fort Bragg is still grappling with whether to drop its reference to Confederate General Braxton Bragg, although no alternative is currently being considered. Fort Bragg Deputy Mayor Jessica Morsell-Haye, who heads the committee to review the possible name change that just conducted a community investigation into the issues, says she expects to make “recommendations. to the city council at the end of November “.
The State Park and Recreation Commission, meanwhile, is collecting public comments on Patrick’s Point’s recommendation until close of business on September 28, which can be emailed to [email protected] with words “Patrick’s Point Name Change” in the subject line. Interested parties can also comment during the meeting.
The commission staff report states that there are few costs associated with the renaming of the park, which already includes the Sumeg village built and recently renovated by Yurok with its traditional ceremonial structures including family plank houses. redwood, sweathouses, a dance structure and changing rooms.
The Yurok Tribe Says Newsom’s Apology was a “First Step in Forging a True Partnership with Our State Agencies” and Notes that the Tribe is Looking to the Future “to Help Our Tribal People and the State to heal from some of the evils of the past “.
“The state’s dark past is present throughout our landscape, including many other namesakes like this, but this landscape also contains our genesis, our history, our religion and the story of the resilience of our peoples.” , indicates the press release of the tribe. âThese are stories that deserve to be recognized and these are things that have been around since the beginning of the world and will continue into the future.
“We can begin to change the narrative for generations to come by honoring ancestral places and telling the true story of the State of California.”
Kimberly Wear (she / she) is the Associate Editor of the Journal. She can be reached at 442-1400, ext. 321, or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wear.