Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children" title=
Plaque at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse (Photo: Oscar Gutierrez)
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

A few yards from a busy entrance to the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse, two weather-worn plaques, affixed to a sandstone boulder, attest to California's Spanish Colonial period -- in words that seem painful and problematic in our present moment.

The inscription on the older of the two plaques, rendered in all capital letters, reads as follows:

BARBARA AUG. 18-20, 1769 AND
Photo: Oscar Gutierrez

The second, attached to the opposite side of the stone, reads:


An alert Newsmakers reader, who requested anonymity, sent us an image of one of the panels, concerned about the message it sends, particularly at a time of nationwide unrest over racism and the removal and tearing down of Confederate statues and other historic markers.

"Plaque greeting visitors to the Courthouse!" they wrote, protesting the presence of the marker on the grounds of Santa Barbara's most iconic landmark, visited by thousands of tourists a year,

Photo: Oscar Gutierrez

Gregg's outraged

Objecting to "the offensive, racist language" of the plaques, Board of Supervisors President Gregg Hart told us last night that he intends to see they are "removed as soon as possible" from the Courthouse grounds.

"I'd like them removed as soon as tomorrow," Hart told Newsmakers.

The 1927 plaque, dated two years before the Courthouse was completed, is catalogued on the Historical Marker Database, which describes more than 115,000 historical markers in the nation; the listing notes other plaques on the grounds, including "The First Ruling Sovereign of Europe to Visit America," "President Reagan Meets Queen Elizabeth II" and "Tympanum."

Portola was a soldier and administrator of Spain's Viceroyalty of New Spain colony, who explored and expanded its Las Californias province far north, from Baja California to San Francisco Bay.

The 1938 plaque is along the route of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which recalls the 1,200 mile expedition of the New Spain military officer that established the first colonial settlement near San Francisco. The trail is managed by the National Park Service; the Courthouse marker, however, is not listed on its website, although five other sites in Santa Barbara County, including El Presidio de Santa Barbara, are.

"My first reaction to seeing the plaques was total confusion," said City Council member Oscar Gutierrez, who kindly took fresh photos of both plaques for a quarantined Newsmakers geezer after we showed him the image we were sent.

"Why would the Daughters of the American Revolution be honoring a Spanish colonizer's religious mission on public and state land? Why are those facts not noted on the plaques but their skin color is?" he said. "The plaques don't seem to be completely historically accurate or acknowledge the consequences of the colonizers' actions. I'm glad the county is taking action."


California members of the Daughters of the American Revolution have been active in sponsoring other markers and sites of the historic trail around the state.

Founded in 1890, after women were rejected for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, DAR is a non-profit that, among other activities, promotes historic preservation. Membership, which the group claims at more than 1 million women, is based on genealogy: new members must prove "lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution."

Viewed as a conservative organization, the DAR in the last century had a fraught history of racism, and did not admit a Black member until 1977.

Last month, however, amid the protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, the organization released a statement called "The DAR's continuing commitment to equality," which stated that "our organization condemns racism. Bias, prejudice and intolerance have no place in the DAR or America."

Efforts to reach a DAR representative last night were unsuccessful.*

[Editor's Note: The below update by Jerry Roberts includes a response from DAR]

SB's DAR Leader Agrees Courthouse Markers Should Go -- Suggests Possible "Replacement Plaques"

The leader of Santa Barbara's Daughters of the American Revolution chapter on Monday agreed that two controversial plaques on the Courthouse grounds that celebrate the Spanish Colonial period should be removed.

Jane Frederick, Regent of the Mission Canyon Chapter of the DAR, told Newsmakers that the plaques, dated 1927 and 1938, were donated by now-defunct branches of the national non-profit group.

"We don't object," to the removal of the two markers, Frederick said. "The reconsideration of colonization is completely under scrutiny right now, and they need to come down."

As we reported earlier, the older marker commemorates the arrival in Santa Barbara of an expedition led by colonial governor Gaspar de Portola in 1769, identified as "the first white men to march through the wilderness of California." The other honors "the first white women and children who marched through California," and encamped nearby, with a group of families led by Juan Bautista de Anza in 1776.

After learning of the two markers, Board of Supervisors Chair Gregg Hart denounced their "racist and offensive language" and said he would see to their removal. Both he and Frederick confirmed Monday that they spoke after our post was published.

"He was really wanting to be reassured that we wouldn't object," to the removal, Frederick told us. "Jane supports removing the plaques," said Gregg.

A 1972 and 1976 member of the USA Olympic Track and Field Team, who set the first official world record in the women's heptathlon, Frederick said she became concerned about the language of the markers when she first learned of them after becoming active in the DAR several years ago; as the current chapter Regent, she said, she now has surveyed the executive board and there is "consensus" for supporting Hart's move.

The DAR is active in historic preservation and Frederick added that the local chapter will consider the appropriateness of a possible "plaque replacement" for the Courthouse marker; the group will "investigate whether the events honored were important enough" to deserve historic commemoration and, if so, determine what updated, "collaborative language" is appropriate for describing them.

"We'll talk about what's next," she added.

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SantaBarbaraObserver Jul 16, 2020 12:01 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

At the time of their migration west, Whites were the minority in CA and here... So in a strange way, this plaque is pretty much what a plaque celebrating people of color in Santa Barbara will appear to people 100 years from now - when almost everyone is some mix of many races and whites are long since passed over as the majority. People will look back on our obsession with race labels and say, huh? Not too mention these were Spaniards making them both Latin and White... Makes for a confusing dialog when you factor in the mixture of European and Indio that makes up modern Latin American DNA. We live in such a strange time...

Luvaduck Jul 15, 2020 11:57 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Some of this erase public markers that don't conform to current sensibilities is long overdue, but some of it is just silly. Should astronomy's "black hole" become "hole of color" and "white glove" treatment be eliminated altogether? How about "Indian Summer", "Indianna", "Chief Justice", "whitewash" and "black ball"? And if you can emasculate someone, shouldn't effeminate be what a total hysterectomy is called?

PitMix Jul 16, 2020 09:46 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

It's really not okay to lump all of the pinkish people in as "whites". But historically belonging to that group has not resulted in widespread lynchings and segregation and lack of votes. So if you have the power, it doesn't matter so much what people call you. If you lack power, it matters a lot. But if we all got away from cultural labels and tried to see people as individuals, that would be a good thing.

PitMix Jul 15, 2020 02:00 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

More weak what-about arguments. Privileged people hate to be inconvenienced in any way. Probably if you researched most of those names you would find some negative connection to our history. The exception is probably black hole because no light can emanate from them. Personally, if someone tells me their preferred pronouns and cultural label, I consider it polite behavior to use them and I don't feel diminished at all.

PitMix Jul 15, 2020 11:59 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Birth certificates in CA didn't have a hispanic classification in the old days, so those said "white". Not sure what they say now. Someone knowledgeable on cultural issues says that your culture is determined by how you are raised, with some exceptions. I am 3/16ths hispanic but was raised in white culture so it would be a reach for me to call myself hispanic. The exceptions have to do with a situation where a black child is adopted by a white family- society is generally going to see them as black, not white.

NostraChumash Jul 15, 2020 11:18 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

A few years ago, I presented an idea to city gov called
"New Spanish days", which would be an all-inclusive "ecumenical"
version of what we have now..
p.s...the historical segments presented here regarding the Chumash..are incorrect due to the current available info.
The Western version of our story is perpetuation of mis-information..like "The island of the blue dolphin" is a made-up story, used as an attempt to make SB relevant during the time of Ishi & the Yahi's...but thanks for trying.

a-1594843059 Jul 15, 2020 12:57 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

It is amazing that well-documented factual history--often from the actual Chumash community in past decades are erased by anecdotal accusations by you that cannot be verified, and are not even part of fantasy history on both sides only intended make you all look better that you were. We are all not a color, but imperfect. Yanolani would love to take you on with this deconstruction. There were friendly relations and ceremonies shared. There was peace and prosperity until the post-Spanish period.
Yes, you had 10,000 years of a lifespan of less than 40 years alive, plus disasters and disease before the Spanish. There are many tribal wars-- weapons and bashed in heads found --all well documented. This is not hate based hysterics --and your hostile account do not match the Chumash people I have known personally and the stories of mixed families, as they were encouraged to inter-marry. So who is bad? Which half of a person will you damn.
Migrations always lead to serious cultural change. But we don't have to pretend oral tradition can undue actual records, and measurable factual knowledge. We NOW have mutual respect for all tribal people although we cannot really identify them any longer--we are all mixed up now! Literally. Especially you wanting to destroy other facts of movement of peoples, including yours. These were growing colonies for advancement of a better life, religions here
in Santa Barbara and not slavery, crime or war. Is everything you believe a truth just because you believe it and we have to also? Where are these documents?

sacjon Jul 15, 2020 11:06 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Get rid of these plaques, change racist names, take down confederate (traitor) statues, but keep our Fiesta. Maybe change the name and the primary focus of Fiesta to celebrate other cultures (Spanish, Mexican, Native American) and give opportunities for us to learn about their music, their dances, their traditions. Yeah, Fiesta is usually associated with drinking and partying, but it really IS a celebration of others. We should definitely add more emphasis on the local Chumash history though. Maybe change it from "Old Spanish Days" to "Santa Barbara Days?" Put the focus on our history and recognition of the cultures and people here before us.

OWLworks Jul 15, 2020 09:04 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Fiesta celebrates the atonement and reconciliation with history through arts/ music/traditional dances foods of many peoples--and we celebrate the culture of people coming together not to hate one another with malicious slander, violent intent and competition, but to express the joy of accepting one another and sharing traditions. That was the actual history of SB--along with our parade about the variety of horse that the Spanish introduced in North American which gave control and power to Native tribes in their struggle to survive. Those so called "whites" haven't been white for ages--all born here--natives, folks.

Alma Krause Jul 15, 2020 08:28 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

There is a relentless hatred in all this cancel culture. The mention of "White" in the plaque is sufficient to take it down, especially because it doesn't represent the make up of the Portola or Anza troupe and in the latter of their families. Half of the soldiers came from nonwhite backgrounds--mulato, negro, meztizo, Indio, coyote. This ethnic, racial mix resulted from 250 years of the Mexican frontier moving northward. In one census taken at the time, there was a tremendous amount interracial marriages. Portola, who was "white" was actually a Catalan, who was part of the Catalan volunteers who came from Spain. Portola actually didn't stay in CA. He returned to Spain. Catalan was a separate culture that has its own language that was actuallySerra's native language. Other soldiers considered "white" were Basques who spoke their own Basque language. Padre Lassen, who founded the mission was of Basque origin. Spanish Governor Pedro Fages was a Catalan; Spanish Governors Arrilliaga and Borica were Basques. When the "Spanish" settled SB in 1782 half the soldiers and their families were people of color--by definitions used today. Regarding Chumash in SB, when Spanish founded SB they found burned out several burned out villages and learned that various Chumash mountain people were at war with some coastal Chumash. For the first 20 years Chumash were evangelized in their villages. Also a Chumash Indian and a Spanish Indian Soldier were married in the Presidio Chapel. A son of the chieftain Yanonali was buried in the Presidio Chapel one of the few marked Indian graves. Indians were paid to build the Presidio while living in their villages; they provided half the labor, the other half were soldiers and sailors from visiting ships. Indians were taught agriculture and animal husbandry, later at the missions; if an Indian was a fugitive and left the mission on his or her own, in almost all cases Indian Auxiliaries were sent to retrieve them, not soldiers. Death from disease at the missions was very low during the Spanish period, because Spain had a mercantilist economy that limited shipping to Spanish ships, and thus limited the disease brought in. During the Mexican period after shipping was opened up to foreign vessels, disease became rampant at the missions and Indians died by the thousands. After Spain left CA to its own devices and ships stopped bringing supplies Indians and soldiers completed for limited resources and the violent Chumash revolt took place in 1824. This is during the Mexican period; Mexico had declared and won its independence by 1820. These are facts: there are many more interesting ones. But in this crazy cancel culture all history is blurred together in a world of European bad guys versus Native good guys. In fact the Spanish who settled SB were Catalans, Basques, some Spanish, mestizos, mulattos, negros, and Mexican Indios, who came upon an advanced Indian Chumash people who were at war with one another. By 1820 through agriculture (wheat and corn fields, vineyards, etc) and the presence of hundreds of thousands of domestic animals--cattle, horses, mules, sheep the SB coastal environment had been transformed. White Evil? The story is more interesting than this Manichean view of the world.

Ann Beth Jul 15, 2020 10:39 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Again, thanks for the history lesson. In removing old plaques, I think it’s important that historical events are recorded, so I hope that they are replaced with new ones that are more accurately worded. Sometimes plaques, public art, statues, etc. are meant to inform, not to indoctrinate or influence public opinion. Events of the past can be worded in such a way that conveys our history without glorifying it. I actually think the fact that the DAR referred to the colonists as “white” when they were actually racially mixed is another interesting part of that history, and says more about the DAR at that time than it does of the racial mix of our town’s settlers.

I think that the public outrage about our monuments is misplaced. If you look deeper, the outrage is really about what actually happened, but, these are facts that cannot be changed. The best we can do now is to acknowledge it and, as a new generation, strive not to repeat it, and hope that future generations won’t be removing our monuments with as much disgust as we remove those that were placed before us.

Of course, I have deep sorrow about slavery and the great civil war that ended it, but I also can acknowledge the great sorrow of the people of the south who also suffered and built their own monuments to commemorate their reality. I hope that the statues, etc., of the south can have their own museum someday as a record, much like the German holocaust museums and the Vietnam memorial. History is history...there are ways to present it, without losing the thread of objectivity.

RHS Jul 15, 2020 10:02 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

I have no idea where this sort of "history" was created. It sounds a lot like Europe in the 19th century. Catalan and Basque are cultures, not races. But as noted elsewhere, the original European sourced settlers included people of African and Central American ancestry, not just from Europe (why does this apology just want to defend "white Europeans"?). Implying that the indigenous people revolted only against the "Mexicans" is also absurd and slanderous. Natives were resistant to being held as slaves from the beginning. Spanish soldiers chased natives who escaped the missions for long distances (over into the Tulare valley area for example) and forcibly brought them back to SB. This happened in other missions up and down California as well. In other parts of the Spanish conquest thousands of native peoples were slaughtered or worked to death. Spain was no enlightened master. Saying the sort of ill-informed apologist stuff that is contained in this propaganda is destructive to knowing our past. It should not be accepted without challenge.

a-1594828786 Jul 15, 2020 08:59 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Alma, the term "Manichean" would not be understood by the majority of people here. So here is a cut/paste from Google: Manichæism was a major religion founded in the 3rd century AD by the Persian prophet Mani in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness.

OWLworks Jul 15, 2020 08:22 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

This is a new side effect of COVID19 --massive ignorance of actual facts of history, replaced with a ongoing and divisive hate speech motive. The Spanish Colonial Period, like all Colonial periods was part of a worldwide migration of people escaping poverty and limitations in other places. When people came here to California, there were only TWO races --White/ Native or Other. Two genders Male/Female. Hence the DAR language of that time. Historic context should protect and explain what is now packaged as racism. These were actually only mixed races by 1782 when families arrived here to live. Actually, after 200 plus years of first contact, there were no "whites" as we describe them today, nor Europeans, but mixed racial people (Hello DNA) . Natives were attracted and embraced this new sacred religion, adding their own elements. They did so by choice for the most part and for centuries. This distorted "look back" with our own intentions is criminal now. Check the records of the actual founding and you will discover this was a place deemed hospitable for life and supportive for all the MIXED racial people that settled at the Presidio in 1792--the only Spanish one was a servant. This is a political movement based on white race hatred, along with deconstruction of actual historic perspectives about settlements of people. No one was enslaved or killed on this expedition. These were the first tourist of black origins, families of former slaves, as well (over 50% plus mixed races) . I guess we no longer care about documentation, facts of exploration and contact. This is a campaign for white guilt and deliberate shaming of folks who cannot defend themselves. Read the "Tree of Hate" against Spain by other Europeans with evil intent. The descendants of these people still live here folks--is this a new genocide? The tribes lost power over their people drawn to a better existence, and they were not enslaved, but paid to develop a new culture of mutual respect and integration we have today officially.
We still honor those values coming from that first collaboration. Our town chose a historic architectural and artistic style. They also integrated sacred art and practices into our culture.
This was a movement to being a better life to all. Their pandemic came much later--after the Spanish period when world trade was expanded. Changing history is the way to conquest -- now into a new Anarchistic/ authoritarian "destroy history and faith" period. This is a pre-requisite to destroying faith, and hope. Shame on those who do not check facts and the context. Stop this WAR on facts bolstered by the weapon of emotions. How hateful is our time and with what unholy motives. Hopefully recorded! Stop looking ONLY for the bad in the past in SB specifically, and see the good things, corrections in conduct we inherited from better acts of conscience.

a-1594837402 Jul 15, 2020 11:23 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Native people fought against the white invasion. As you noted, in 1824 the slaves at Santa Ynez and La Purisima missions revolted fought the Spanish garrisons located there. The La Purisima revolt lasted a month before the Chumash slaves were forced to flee to the mountains and the swamps around the Lompoc estuary. Many descendents live in the Lompoc and Santa Ynez areas and the true stories of the genocide and poor treatment have been handed down through the generations.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jul 15, 2020 03:46 AM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

You know, I'm 1/4 Pima and 1/4 Aztec and I just need to get this off my chest. These plaques don't bother me in the least. Asked my mom, who is full Native American, and she could care less. However, the irony that is not lost on either of us is how many of those who are not of Native American ancestry are still, to this day, deciding what is good and bad for our culture. In that respect, little has changed. To address another comment here about "living in harmony with their environment and each other", I agree with Bene. We, as tribes, warred with each other mercilessly for resources like most people do, though we did not distinguish ourselves in terms of identity the way many people think. A captured member of another tribe might be adopted into the captor's tribe and given the land and family of the person he killed to take care of. That was the punishment and duty. As far as the environment, Native Americans routinely burned swaths of forests (releasing CO2) in order to clear areas and create fertile ground for new crops to grow in. Many non-Natives are against this practice, as they are when it comes to my distant relatives to the north who still whale today. We are both celebrated, and yet criticized for current and past practices. One last terrible truth. Have you been to a reservation? Have you seen the piles of junk littering the landscape? Hardly living in harmony with the environment. But before you blame the forcing of our people on the the reservations, consider this little fact. When I was visiting Mesa Verde in Colorado to see the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan people from around 1000 years ago, well before Columbus, I found that little had change in 1000 years of the celebrated environmental stewardship. While touring the Cliff Palace, which is difficult to access even with all of today's modern routes (which did not exist back then), I asked the Park Ranger an obvious question: what they did with all their trash? He said they just tossed it over the side of the cliff and down into the canyon. Okay, sure, mostly biodegradable stuff right...not necessarily. Certainly they weren't dumping plastic and aluminum, but many artifacts that they considered trash can still be found there, discarded over the side without the slightest consideration. And that's just the way it is. Native Americans have always been, and continue to be completely misunderstood. I'll never forget watching re-runs of an old TV show from the late 60's called F-Troop, a comedy set at a US Army frontier outpost at the end of the US Civil War. I could never understand why the chief wore a Cherokee warbonnet (headdress), lived in a Sioux tipi, and had Tlingit totem poles around his camp. I hope that if people want to educate themselves about all these rich cultures then they do that. Just don't politicize my culture on my behalf, particularly when you don't even understand it. Thanks.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jul 15, 2020 08:40 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Bene, of course, considered it buried ;) I was in Mesa Verde just a few years ago, and there was some paperwork you still had to sign about the dangers because of the tight crawl through the choke-points and the very steep ladders. No mummies anymore, and a few parts looked to be under restoration, which is nice. It's such an amazing natural fortress, with it's own water supply that percolates out of interior walls due to fissures between the limestone and shale. There was a lot of material (remains and artifacts) that had been removed many years ago by Swedish researcher Gustaf Nordenskiöld, and they have resided in Finland for than 100 years. Recently an arrangement has been made with the Finish government to return some of these so they can be properly buried again.

Bene Jul 15, 2020 08:21 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Chem, wow, does this mean you are ready to bury the hatchett with me? Hee hee. Anyway, I like your post. Mesa Verde is so wonderful isn't it? When I was a kid they still let people climb into the hazardous spots where you had to sign a health waiver or something to be allowed. And they had a mummy named Esther on display. Now that was super duper disrespectful! They have since properly buried her, thank goodness!

sacjon Jul 14, 2020 05:03 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

Maybe I'm just a "liberal," but I honestly couldn't care one iota whether they remove these plaques. In all my years living and the many years working in and around the SB Courthouse, I've never once read these. Well, maybe I did, but it never registered. Go ahead and remove them! Not sure why anyone would be upset about removing these, well, except CHIP and REX clearly.

sacjon Jul 14, 2020 05:40 PM
Historic Markers at SB Courthouse Celebrate Colonial Exploits of "White Men...White Women, Children"

REX - oh please, don't be simple. It's not that ALL white explorers and settlers were "bad," it's that those who did oppress, enslave, kill, rape, etc the indigenous people (ie, the ones that were here first) should not be celebrated. Committing genocide (or at least attempting to) is generally considered a "bad" quality in a person, wouldn't you agree? There are many white settlers and explorers who were able to settle and explore WITHOUT trying to destroy the people they found living here, take Lewis and Clark for example. Those white folks should be praised and honored, but what you're seeing in the news is the "bad" ones losing their statues, plaques, etc. Don't forget the difference between "all" and "some." That seems to be a problem with your ilk.


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