Chico State to Rename Sutter Hall
Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson has approved the renaming of Sutter Hall to Éstom Jámani after a thorough research-based examination of the legacy of the building’s namesake—John Sutter.
Friends of the Mechoopda, a group of faculty, staff and community members supporting local native concerns, took the initiative to examine Sutter’s complex legacy and has been discussing the issue since 2018. Their scrupulous research affirmed how his business ventures came at the expense of Indigenous people, whom he enslaved, killed, and abused. The group presented its findings to the University’s Office of Tribal Relations in fall 2021.
Last fall, the Office of Tribal Relations assembled a diverse committee of Chico State students, faculty and staff who reviewed possible names and presented a recommendation to President Hutchinson in spring 2023. After thoughtful consideration, the president approved the removal of the name as Sutter’s actions do not align with the core values of Chico State.
“While the University drew inspiration from our neighboring Northern California counties to name some of its buildings, John Sutter is the namesake of one of those counties,” Hutchinson said. “Our commitment to our strategic priority of equity, diversity and inclusion prompts us to consider ways in which our institution may be causing harm to any populations and preserving systemic racism—or simply condoning it through inaction.
“We cannot undo the harm caused, but we can course correct and make decisions that align with the University’s values.”
The building will be renamed Éstom Jámani (pronunciation: Es-tohm Yo-mah-ni), which translates to Middle Mountains, the northwestern Maidu term for the buttes rising from the valley floor south of Chico. The phrase reflects what the area was known as by the Mechoopda and other surrounding Maidu tribes prior to colonial contact.
“The decision to rename the building from someone who made a name for himself at the expense of indigenous people, and instead bestow it with a name of native origin is not just a symbolic gesture,” said Rachel McBride-Praetorius, the director of Tribal Relations at Chico State. “It is a powerful testament to the University’s commitment to recognizing and rectifying past injustice and fostering a respectful and equitable environment for all.”
Opened in fall 2010, Sutter Hall is the newest of eight residence halls at Chico State. The five-story building is home to 244 students and includes a dining hall and café. The removal of the current signage will occur in late May, with plans to install permanent signage before the start of the fall semester.
“I appreciate the Friends of the Mechoopda and the committee for their diligence,” Hutchinson said. “I want to thank everyone involved for their thoughtful and fact-based approach while helping guide the University in this important step.”
Chico State is committed to advancing Tribal relations and ensuring that it fosters an environment where Native American students, faculty and staff feel a sense of belonging. In the past couple of years, the University has undertaken multiple efforts to grow Tribal relations, including:
- Reaffirmation of a memorandum of understanding for guiding principles for Chico State’s consultation with the Mechoopda Indian Tribe and a resolution for a territorial land acknowledgment.
- Working with Tribes on a government-to-government basis and with other Tribal partners to provide access to social, emotional, and academic support for Native American students.
- Transfer of ownership of the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve in 2022 from Chico State Enterprises to the Mechoopda Indian Tribe—the first land transfer agreement of its kind in the state.
- Working with six tribes since 2020 on the repatriation of ancestors with the goal to complete repatriation efforts by early summer 2023.
- Relocation of the Office of Tribal Relations to the Center for Continuing Education Building in June 2023 in adherence with the University’s Master Plan, with a vision to eventually develop it into a formalized center.
About Chico State
At Chico State, we empower students to Do and Dare in their careers and lives. Founded in 1887, Chico State is the second-oldest institution in the 23-campus CSU, the nation’s largest public university system. Chico State enrolls approximately 14,000 students and serves as the comprehensive university of the North State, the 12-county region where the campus is located. A 20-time US News & World Report “Top Public School in the West,” Chico State prides itself on its high-quality, high-value education, an active and engaged student body, and strong connection with the local community and state of California. Recognized for its focus on sustainability and community involvement, students expand their possibilities through more than 380 academic offerings and co-curricular programs, and work closely with expert faculty to devise solutions for the unprecedented global challenges of the 21st century.