A statue honoring a colonizer who laid claim to the land where the discovery of shiny flakes of gold sparked the California Gold Rush was removed Monday outside a Sacramento hospital bearing his name.
Several dozen people cheered as a work crew lifted the statue of John Sutter — a 19th century European colonizer of California who enslaved Native Americans — off its pedestal outside Sutter Medical Center in the latest reckoning of historical figures being removed from public display.
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“OK, he’s Sutter, but he’s a real son of a b——,” said Frank Condon, a playwright who was walking to a doctor’s appointment. He had marveled hours earlier that it was still standing and wondered why it hadn’t been taken down.
Sutter, a European immigrant who had built a fort in Sacramento in the mid-1800s, had laid claim to land on the American River in Coloma about 35 miles away in the Sierra foothills. James Marshall, a carpenter, was building a mill there for Sutter when he discovered gold in 1848.
The two tried to keep it a secret, but word got out and men flocked to the foothills in search of their fortune.
School Near Fresno Among Several Named for Sutter
In addition to the replica fort in downtown Sacramento that still bears his name across from the hospital, there is a county and several schools named for Sutter across California. That list includes John Sutter Middle School in the city of Fowler, about 20 miles south of Fresno.
“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 Sutter Health spokesman said in a statement.
Sutter Health did not say whether it was considering removing Sutter’s name from the nonprofit hospital system.
Ashwut Rodriguez, a California Indian from Sacramento, spit on the statue of Sutter after it was loaded onto a flatbed and tied down. It’s unclear where the statue will be taken.
‘Stop Celebrating These Evil People’
“This is only a Band Aid on a broken arm, but we can’t celebrate or consider anything until you stop celebrating these evil people,” said Rodriguez, 42, who came out with his family and young children to watch.
Sutter himself did not benefit from the gold rush and his empire crumbled after the discovery was made.