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Statue of colonizer John Sutter removed after being defaced in Sacramento

Workers remove a statue of John Sutter from a Sacramento hospital on Monday.
Workers remove a statue of John Sutter, a Swiss settler who built the first European settlement on the site of the city of Sacramento, outside Sutter Medical Center on Monday.
(Daniel Kim / Sacramento Bee )

A statue of John Sutter, a colonizer of California during the Gold Rush and the founder of Sutter’s Fort, was taken down Monday at Sutter Medical Center amid complaints of racism, according to officials.

Last week, as monuments were being removed across the globe — sometimes forcibly — the statue of Sutter was vandalized with red paint, according to reports.

Officials decided this week to remove the statue “out of respect for some community members’ viewpoints, and in the interest of public safety for patients and staff,” a Sutter Health spokesperson said.

“There are important conversations happening across the country about the appropriate representation of statues and monuments, and we look forward to listening to and participating in future conversations about how our own community may display artwork from the different communities and individuals that have played important roles in Sacramento’s history,” a news statement said.

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The 8-foot-tall statue was created in 1987 and donated to then-Sutter General Hospital by the United Swiss Lodge. The statue’s inscription noted it was to commemorate “a man of vision and compassion.”

The origins of Sutter Health are linked to John Sutter. Its first hospital was named after neighboring Sutter’s Fort, which cared for Gold Rush pioneers as Sacramento’s first hospital, according to the hospital system.

Though much of Sacramento is named after Sutter, he has been a controversial figure for decades. Historians have written about the German-born Swiss immigrant who enslaved hundreds of Native Americans, forcing them to work and defend the territory. A History Channel article called Sutter a “shrewd businessman” and a key player in the genocide of Native Americans, many of whom he reportedly sexually assaulted.

Diana Tumminia, a founding member of Statewide Coalition Against Racist Symbols, said the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement made the removal of Sutter’s statue possible.

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“For five years we’ve been planning demonstrations at Sutter’s Fort, but [the statue] never actually came [down] because [Sutter] was such a powerful symbol,” said Tumminia, a retired professor who taught race relations. “This is a long time coming.”

The statue will be kept in storage and returned to its original donors at a later date, a Sutter Health spokesperson said.


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