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.

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 planning@parks.ca.gov.


 

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.

Tribal membersGold Miners at Spanish Flat circa 1852. Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.

 

Announcements


Sue-Meg State Park

Sue-meg SP Temporary Sign

The California State Park and Recreation Commission voted to rename Patrick’s Point State Park to Sue-meg State Park to honor the place name used by the Yurok people since time immemorial. This is the first park name change as part of the state’s Reexamining Our Past Initiative and is a momentous step to heal relationships with Native Americans and working together in recognition and honor of indigenous cultural and linguistic relationships. Please view our press releases for more information:

Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, Negro Bar Day-Use Area

negro bar

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 Negro Bar day-use area. State Parks’ staff anticipate presenting 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/NegroBar.


Humboldt Redwoods and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

founder's tree

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

Tolowa Nation

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

Marshall Gold Discovery SHP_Sutter's Mill landmark

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

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

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

sutter's fort

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