At a time when organizations are confronting their “racist” history and statues of confederate leaders are being taken down, the Sierra Club has decided to do the same, confronting its early history with founder John Muir.
The Sierra Club posted on its website early Wednesday morning that “It’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history.”
“The whiteness and privilege of our early membership fed into a very dangerous idea — one that’s still circulating today,” the site reads
Muir has been called the “wilderness prophet” and “father of the national parks,” having founded the conversation organization, the Sierra Club, in 1892, and helping form the National Park Service, according to The Washington Post.
Muir also worked to save and preserve Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Forest.
However, in his past, Muir had made derogatory comments that drew on racist stereotypes about Black and Indigenous people.
Adding that he would refer to them using unfavorable terms such as “dirty,” “lazy,” “deadly,” “Sambos,” and others, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Sierra Club commented on it saying, “As the most iconic figure in Sierra Club history, Muir’s words and actions carry an especially heavy weight. They continue to hurt and alienate Indigenous people and people of color who come into contact with the Sierra Club”
In 2014, a Los Angeles Times article looked deeper into the history of Muir, stating that many sites that Muir saved, now landmarks, were stolen from indigenous people.
A USC professor on American Studies and Ethnicity, Laura Pulido, said, “It is essential that we try to understand John Muir in all his complexity,”
The Sierra Club is planning on spending the next year studying its history and “determining which of our monuments need to be renamed or pulled down entirely,” along with an investment of $5 million from their budget to their staff of color and racial justice work, according to The Hill.