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Big changes are coming to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento. Here's what to know.

Here are changes coming to Sacramento's Sutter's Fort
Here are changes coming to Sacramento's Sutter's Fort 02:00

SACRAMENTO — State park leaders have voted to make changes at one of Sacramento's oldest and most historic sites—and it may even get a new name.

Up to 120,000 people visit Sutter's Fort each year. There's a lot of history inside the walls.

"It still remains one of the pre-eminent cultural institutions in the city," said John Fraser, superintendent of the California State Parks capital district.

From cannons and covered wagons to Captain John Sutter's office, generations of kids and adults have toured these displays that recreate what life was like for pioneers in the 1840s.

Now, the fort's exhibits are about to get a major makeover.

"We think there's a better way to tell the complexity of the site," Fraser said.

The California State Parks Commission has unanimously approved changing the museum's interpretive plan, which will now take a closer look at the impact early settlers had on Native Americans.

"We want to see history accurately portrayed," said James Sarmento of the Shingle Springs band of Miwok Indians.

Historians say John Sutter participated in forced labor at the fort and helped displace and dehumanize indigenous people.

"I'd like to see changes in how history is taught there," Fraser said. "I'd like to see a truthful history of the man John Sutter was."

The new education plan calls for reducing "living history" lessons where kids dress up in period costumes and get to visit with docents portraying John Sutter and other historical figures.

"It sets a new framework that says there's wider stories that need to be told," Fraser said.

The parks department is even considering removing the name Sutter from Sutter's Fort.

The new plan acknowledges the fort's darker past while still offering education about the Sacramento region's early days.

"I think a lot of the teachers are realizing that there's still a lot of fun and immersive activities for them to experience at the fort, but now it comes with a much more accurate historical portrayal," Fraser said.

Creating the new lessons and exhibits is already underway and the total cost is expected to be about $2 million.

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