In the first name change of state-owned land in California, Patrick’s Point State Park is now Sue-meg State Park.
A unanimous vote Thursday by the California State Parks and Recreation Commission approved the name used by the indigenous Yurok tribe.
Yurok Tribe President Joe James called the commission’s decision “a turning point in tribal-state relations.”
The 1 square mile park is located on the coast north of Trinidad.
The “Patrick” of Patrick’s Point is Patrick Beegan, an Irish immigrant who claimed the North Coast Peninsula in the 1800s, said Victor Bjelajac, district superintendent of the North Coast Redwoods. Beegan was accused of murdering scores of Native Americans during this time, including a Yurok child, and ultimately lost his property after evading law enforcement.
The decision to change the name of the park “follows a nationwide conversation about the names of geographic features,” said Alex Stehl, chief planning officer for California state parks.
“While changing the name of a park unit is strongly discouraged, this effort is part of a larger project with the State of California government to identify and correct discriminatory names of features attached to parks and systems. state transportation, ”Stehl said.
The state Department of Parks and Recreation launched the Reexamine Our Past initiative a year ago to reassess contested place names, monuments and interpretations in state parks.
Among those who spoke during the public comment period were the two young sons of Yurok tribe member Merry Kate Lowry, who grew up in Trinidad and was born just 50 meters from the state park.
“It’s not fair to Native Americans,” one of the boys said of the Patrick’s Point name. “Someone who murdered them, tore their tongue out, has a part of their land named after him. Like, man, how is that fair?
Sarah Lindgren-Akana, a member of the Yurok tribe, said the name change “would recognize the harm that has been done” to her ancestors.
“Sue-meg was one of our traditional gathering places. My great-great-grandfather was shot by Patrick, his arm was mutilated and deformed for life after that. He was accused of theft, which was common, right? It was an easy way to justify shooting and killing an Indian, it was to accuse him of theft. Removing that name from this place is so important to recognize the harm that has been done.
Following public comments and a brief discussion among Commissioners, Vice-Chair Phil Ginsburg thanked the community for bringing the item forward.
“I don’t think that because you’re the first one you should be penalized for not having a comprehensive policy or procedure here,” he said. “To one of Lowry’s boys,” Dude, how is that fair? It’s not, which is why I know that one of my commissioners is going to make a motion to rename this park to Sue-meg State Park.
Commissioner Sara Barth brought forward a motion to go ahead with the name change, which was seconded by Commissioner Katherine Toy. The motion was carried unanimously 5-0.