A number of prominent Hastings alumni, including senior retired judges, disagree and have called for a renaming. They say that like the fortune of the Sackler family, derived from the opioids that ultimately killed multitudes of Americans, the gold Mr. Hastings donated to found the school is tainted.
Ultimately, Mr. Faigman said in an interview, the question of whether Hastings keeps its name rests with the Legislature and the governor. His critics say Hastings should proactively demand the change. A spokeswoman for Mr. Newsom, Erin Mellon, said the governor hoped Californians would “think critically about the harmful legacies of our forebears.” The governor will review any legislative proposals that land on his desk, Ms. Mellon said.
The site of the massacres, Round Valley, is a four-hour drive from Silicon Valley. But the halo of wealth of the Bay Area has never reached the tumbledown homes, trailer park and ranches of Round Valley. The main sustaining business in Covelo, the valley’s unincorporated town, is backyard marijuana plots.
James Russ, the president of the Round Valley Indian Tribal Council, which governs the Round Valley Reservation, emphasizes that the leadership is happy to accept the college’s offer of legal assistance for the tribe’s activities.
“We have a window of opportunity and we don’t want to screw it up,” Mr. Russ said.
Still, the controversy over the name is further complicated by the question of which tribal members should receive reparations.
The Yuki people were decimated and, after decades of intermarriage among members and white settlers, were subsumed into the Round Valley Indian Tribes, which was created after a coerced 19th-century relocation by the U.S. government of seven distinct tribes.
Mona Oandasan, one of the leaders of a group of Yuki tribespeople in Round Valley, said the law school was negotiating with the wrong people. The Yuki were the ones targeted in the Hastings massacres, not the other tribes on the reservation, she said.