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:
- Sue-meg Point - The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, at its December 8, 2022 meeting, approved the proposal to change the name of Patrick’s Point in Humboldt County to Sue-meg Point.
- 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 email@example.com.
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.
Relevancy and History
UC Riverside and State Parks team gathered in front of the Visitor Center showcasing the exhibit “Finding Ourselves in the Groves.”
The purpose of the Relevancy and History Program is to develop and model strategies for community-engaged research; inclusive and relevant historical interpretation; and develop pathways to employment in Parks for a new generation of students who reflect the demographics (and diversity) of the state. Specifically, the program aims to enhance interpretive practices and the relevancy of California’s state parks to today’s students and stakeholders, residents, and visitors, and especially the most under-resourced and underrepresented community members.
In fiscal year 2022/2023 eight interagency agreements were established or maintained throughout the state to implement the program. University partners include UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, CSU Bakersfield, San Diego State University, CSU Northridge, CSU Fullerton, Sonoma State University, and CSU Sacramento. The Relevancy and History Program also supported the official relaunch of the Los Angeles State Historic Park Promotorx Program.
Arts in California Parks
California State Parks is initiating a new program to support Tribal Nations, artists, and communities in creating artwork that offers perspective on our past and present and helps us imagine our potential. The program will establish art installations and programming in State and local parks as catalysts for sustainable community connection, health, and well-being. The program will fund a wide range of projects and programs that bring visual, performing, literary, experiential, and other art forms to State and local parks over five years (2022-2027). State Parks projects are being initiated in 2023 and a local park grant program will launch in 2024.
Tribal Lands Acknowledgement, and Interpretation, and Exhibits
The Tribal Lands Acknowledgement, and Interpretation and Exhibits Project will fund the development of new or updated interpretive exhibits reflecting California Native American culture and heritage in numerous parks, as well as the development of land acknowledgments throughout the Park system over five years (2022-2027). To determine Tribal Nation’s priorities and preferences for interpretation projects and land acknowledgments, State Parks are offering formal government-to-government consultations. By developing these new and updated projects in collaboration with Tribal Nations, State Parks seek to strengthen tribal partnerships and better connect the public with the diverse tribal histories, cultures, and contemporary experiences of California Native Americans.
African American History and Engagement
The African American History and Engagement project is a five-year collaborative effort (2022-2027) with the California African American Museum to research and recover histories, and design and implement innovative and engaging interpretive exhibits in approximately 24 State Parks. The project will also institutionalize restoration of neglected histories through interpreter training programs and archival practices. More information on the MOU and Interagency Agreement between CAAM and DPR that supports this collaboration can be found here.
New Trail in Del Norte County in Ancestral Territory of Tolowa People and Renaming of Peacock Bar at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Up-close look at the sign for the new Xaa-yuu-chit Tes-dvm Trail. Photo from: Emily Reed, Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation
The Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation (Nation) and Redwood National and State Parks recently announced the completion of a new trail in Del Norte County, as well as the renaming of Peacock Bar in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
The new trail is named Xaa-yuu-chit Tes-dvm, which translates to "High-Status-Stream/River Trail." The community of Hiouchi lies within Tolowa Dee-ni' ancestral territory. The name Hiouchi is an anglicized version of the Tolowa word Xaa-yuu-chit. The trail is just under 1 mile, beginning in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and ending near the fire station in Hiouchi. Unlike other trails in Redwood and National State Parks, this trail is pet-, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.
Redwood National and State Parks and the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation also collaborated to rename Peacock Bar. With the support of local organizations such as True North Organizing Network, the Nation and State Parks are installing new signage to acknowledge the original Tolowa name of Peacock Bar, See-tr’ee-ghin-dvm-dvn. See-tr’ee-ghin-dvm-dvn translates to "at the stones where the trail descends downward."
Read the full article, “New Trail in Del Norte County in Ancestral Territory of Tolowa People and Renaming of Peacock Bar at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park” in the Field Report section of the November 18, 2022 Weekly Digest.
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)
Sonoma State Historic Park took time to reflect on how California State Parks should acknowledge the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Sonoma Mission. Based on what we have heard from the public over the past several months, we have determined that a commemoration may not be an appropriate way to mark this anniversary. Instead, we have decided to begin a long-term effort aimed at re-examining Sonoma State Historic Park in order to identify appropriate, meaningful, and impactful ways to contextualize this part of California’s history. State Parks is in active consultation and conversation with local tribes.
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