SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A statue of the city of Sacramento’s most recognized founder has been taken down over claims it represents slavery and oppression.
John Sutter’s statue stood across from Sutter’s Fort for more than three decades until Monday when it was pulled from its pedestal and hoisted away from what had been its place in Sacramento history.
The massive John Sutter statue, a symbol of Sacramento’s first days as a city, was removed by Sutter Health at the request of Native American groups calling for social justice and change. It was also the target of vandalism recently.
A 19th-century European settle and pioneer, Sutter founded the Sutter’s Fort trading post in what would eventually become California’s capital city. His legacy includes not just that fort, but also several landmarks, schools, a mountain range, and even a county named after him.
His legacy isn’t without controversy, as activists and historians have highlighted. Sutter’s record with Native Americans has come under scrutiny in recent years, with some historians saying he enslaved hundreds of natives as part of his business.
Still, other historians note that Sutter is seen as an icon of industry that opened the pathway to migration to California.
“Everybody around the country is tired of it,” Ida Rodriguez said. “Tired of seeing people who represent slavery and people who represent colonization.”
The removal did not have everyone’s blessing.
“Well to be quite honest with you, I think it’s a bummer, I am Native American Indian,” Christian Appel said. “This is a part of American history, it’s a part of the history of Sacramento.”
Sutter Health released a statement reading in part, “out of respect for some community members’ viewpoints, and in the interest of public safety for our patients and staff, we are removing the John Sutter statue that was originally donated to Sutter General Hospital.”
A group called California Coalition Against Racist Symbols is also calling for the removal of the Junípero Serra statue in the Capitol garden and the Christopher Columbus statue inside the Capitol building, citing their roles in the genocide of native Americans.
Steve Beck is a Sacramento historian who spent twenty years working with the State Parks Department as a Sutter’s Fort guide.
“Anytime we try to compare 19th-century standards to 21st-century values and morays, were always going to end up on opposite levels,” Beck said.
Taking down this symbol of Sacramento. A monument intended to stand the test of time is no more.