Reexamining Our Past Initiative
State Parks is taking stock of and critically reexamining its past, looking specifically at contested place names, monuments, and interpretation in California’s State Park System as part of a Reexamining Our Past Initiative.
Data collected by the department during a brief survey of state park units in June 2020 made clear that it must act to further identify and remove residual derogatory place names; inappropriate honorifics associated with the historical legacy of some of its monuments, statues and plaques; and inadequate interpretive programs or exhibits that fall short in fully contextualizing California’s history in parks. State Parks’ Tribal Affairs Program will assist with the identification and redress of discriminatory names of concern to California Native American Tribal Nations.
Working with community partners and universities is fundamental to ensure that State Parks’ educational programs and exhibits support public educational standards and are grounded in contemporary research methodology. As such, there will be opportunities for the public to participate in and comment on the department's efforts.
To date, the following actions have been taken under the Reexamining Our Past Initiative:
- Renamed Patrick’s Point State Park to Sue-meg State Park to honor the place name used by the Yurok people since time immemorial.
- Added new interpretive signage regarding the racist legacy of some of the redwood parks’ founding members that are currently honored in the parks’ redwood groves.
- Installed over 50 "Land Acknowledgement" signs in the North Coast Redwoods District parks.
Individuals interested in subscribing to updates on this important effort or who have a location that needs evaluation are asked to email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The State Addresses Discriminatory Names and Inequities
On Sept. 25, 2020, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, State Parks Director Armando Quintero and Department of Transportation Director Toks Omishakin announced a series of actions to identify and redress discriminatory names of features attached to the state park and transportation systems. The move comes in the wake of a national conversation about the names of geographic features and builds upon Governor Gavin Newsom’s work to support equity, inclusion and accountability throughout the state to better reflect our values. These steps also dovetail with several policies advanced by Governor Gavin Newsom that seek to examine and address historic wrongs and promote access and inclusion for California Native peoples.
Additionally, Secretary Crowfoot directed the Natural Resources Agency to expand representation and increase transparency for the California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names, the state committee tasked with recommending changes to geographic names in California.
North Coast Redwoods District Completes Installation of Land Acknowledgement Signs
The North Coast Redwoods District (NCRD) recently completed the installation of over 50 “Land Acknowledgement” signs in parks across the district. The signs let visitors know the name of the people whose ancestral land they’re on, as well as the Indigenous place name of the location where they’re standing (where place names are available). The signs also include basketry designs provided by Tribal partners. The project aligns with the broader Reexamining Our Past Initiative, which seeks to remove derogatory and inaccurate names and materials from the State Parks system, while restoring Native names and other significant aspects of California's cultural heritage. Read the full article, “North Coast Redwoods District Completes Installation of Land Acknowledgement Signs”, in the Field Report section of the November 4, 2022 Weekly Digest.
Removal of “Sq_ Word” on National Map
A Kumeyaay name restored is Mat Puy Nah Achhuukaayp in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. In Kumeyaay Ipai, this name translates to "the place over there where we go to trade."
The United States Board on Geographic Names announced September 8, 2022, the removal from our National Map of over 600 instances of the “Sq_ Word,” an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur referring to Native American women. This was the culmination of an effort initiated late last year by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. State Parks’ Reexamining Our Past leadership team responded to the secretary’s order by creating an inventory of place names within our system, allowing timely action by district staff to identify appropriate replacement names for these features.
In all, six features were renamed within the State Park System, including four restored Native names identified through consultation between district staff and Native Tribes and organizations. Read the September 9, 2022 Weekly Digest "What's New" section for more details.
The process of Reexamining Our Past continues as State Parks works together with Tribes to remove derogatory and inaccurate names and materials from our system, while restoring Native names and other significant aspects of California's cultural heritage.
To read the U.S. Department of Interior’s press release, click here.
Sue-meg State Park
Please view our press releases for more information:
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, Black Miners Bar Day-Use Area
At Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, located in Sacramento County, State Parks continues to engage the local community, and an array of stakeholders, on a name change for the Black Miners Bar day-use area. State Parks’ staff presented a renaming recommendation to the department director and California State Park and Recreation Commission based on an analysis of scholarly historical research along with public and stakeholder feedback. State Parks invites the public to share their thoughts, comments, or suggestions for an appropriate place name for the park’s day use facilities via comment form. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov/BlackMinersBar.
Humboldt Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Humboldt Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks have added new interpretive signage regarding the racist legacy of some of the parks’ founding members that are currently honored in the parks’ redwood groves. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov/FoundersGrove.
A 1948 memorial honoring Madison Grant in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has also been removed. The large stone monument was removed by an excavator during a small ceremony on June 15, 2021, attended by California State Parks and National Park Service leaders, history scholars, and representatives of the Yurok Tribe and Save the Redwoods League. The ceremony focused on both acknowledging the past while creating a more inclusive and equitable park system for the future. To learn more, read our press release.
Redwood National and State Parks
State Parks and Redwood National and State Parks in Del Norte County along with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation (Nation) installed new land acknowledgement signs throughout the state and national park locations within the Nation’s ancestral land territory. Located in high visitation areas, the nine signs are placed on existing structure to which avoids land disturbance.
State Parks sees these signs as a continued opportunity for visitors to connect with, foster appreciation for the original stewards of park lands and further elevate, honor and celebrate the Indigenous voices and stories that are rooted in the ancestral lands that the California State Park System now protect.
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
State Parks is expanding its interpretation beyond what was once a narrow focus on memorializing the people and events leading up to the gold discovery and its immediate aftermath per the 1979 general plan. Today’s efforts involve engaging in formal government-to-government tribal consultations, conducting archival research, and meeting with families whose history is connected to the Coloma Valley. This reflects a commitment to broadening the historical context and bringing forward those stories that were too often overlooked or marginalized in interpretation program and exhibits. Learn more at parks.ca.gov/MarshallGold.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park (SHP) released a statement acknowledging the impact of the mission on California Native American people and their commitment to creating a more welcoming and healing space.
State Parks is actively in consultation and conversation with local Tribal Nations to update and revise historic exhibits at Santa Cruz Mission SHP.
One of these include the Virtual Bell exhibit, which was designed to help bring greater understanding to the diversity of interpretations of the El Camino Real or Missions Bells as symbols over time. In addition to online access, State Parks is developing a kiosk at Santa Cruz Mission SHP for park visitors to explore, thanks to funding by the Dolkas-Mertz Award.
Learn more at parks.ca.gov/bells.
Sonoma Mission State Historic Park
Sonoma Mission State Historic Park (SHP)
California State Parks is announcing public engagement opportunities as part of an effort to acknowledge the 200th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Francisco Solano (Sonoma Mission), a unit of Sonoma State Historic Park. As the department begins planning the commemoration of the mission bicentennial, the voices and perspectives of California Tribal Nations and community members are crucial in identifying appropriate, meaningful, and impactful ways to reflect on the consequences of the mission’s founding. To learn how the public can provide input and help shape the commemoration, visit parks.ca.gov/SonomaMission200. You can also read our press release.
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park
State Parks is gathering public input on a proposal to fundamentally change the way history is interpreted at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. With this effort, a more inclusive and historically accurate history will be shared with the thousands of school children and visitors that annually tour the National Historic Landmark site located in midtown Sacramento -- California’s capital city. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov/SuttersFort