Taken from the
A journey in the
But, throughout the
Ironically, the problems began with James Marshall. In 1847, an Indian escorted
In 1848, when gold was discovered, the Indian population was estimated at roughly 200,000. One of these was “Indian Jim,” a Maidu whom some claim was the actual discoverer of the gold for which
The influx of argonauts would mean disease and destruction for the region’s original inhabitants. Within a few years, more than half of
In the flush early Gold Rush days, Indian miners outnumbered white argonauts, but, by 1850,
From 1850 to 1863, Indians and other non-whites could not testify against the dominant culture in court. This led to continually abusive and savage treatment at the hands of unscrupulous usurpers. It was open season on the legal rights of Indians.
Three thousand Indian children were sold into slavery at $50 to $200 apiece.
The natives knew that the gold had value to the argonauts, and many mined to purchase commodities for their families. Some mined, but were cheated. James Savage made $500,000 in 1851 by trading for goods with the Indians. His condition was that the items be paid for in their weight in gold -- five pounds of flour, five pounds of gold.
In 1851, Congress ordered federal agents to negotiate treaties of “peace and friendship” with 402
In July 1852, under pressure from the
Also in 1852, the California Assembly issued a proposal to move the native population “beyond the limits of the state in which they are found with all practicable dispatch.”
Simple removal was not enough for some. State Senator J.J. Warner insisted, “there is no place within the territory of the
A contemporary newspaper editorial was even more blunt: “There is only one kind of treaty that is effective -- cold lead.”
Opinion leaders throughout the 1850s agreed, and called for immediate extermination. A statewide cash bounty was placed on the heads of dead Indians. The
Some tribes were slaughtered wholesale. A few were able to resist for decades, but most suffered immediate and irreversible losses. An entire culture was on the verge of extinction. The general sentiment among the ascendant Anglo-American culture was that eradication of what were considered savage obstacles to progress was not only acceptable, but also praiseworthy. Many echoed the notion of an 1866 Chico Courant comment that “It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, and a saving of many white lives.”
By 1900, fewer than 20,000 Indians remained in
Of all of the western
And it did not end with the dawn of a new century.
Without federal recognition of their tribal status, California Indians were in legal limbo. In the early part of the 20th century, reformers petitioned Congress to provide land for this homeless population. Congress responded with an appropriation to purchase a total of 9000 acres to be distributed over fifty separate “Rancherias,” or minute plots of government-controlled land. These were not to be reservations for tribal governments, but simply charitable land allotments for needy Indians. Tribes were splintered and jammed onto often unbelievably small patches of ground. Indians bands were mixed and cultural identities were jumbled and weakened.
In 1958, the California Rancheria Act provided for termination of federal trusteeship of Indians. Sweetened with elaborate guarantees to provide vastly improved infrastructure, tribal members were encouraged to accept this plan. Following passage, thirty-eight tribes, twenty-three rancherias, and thousands of acres of Indian land were officially eliminated. Federal health and educational services were abruptly halted. Promises were not kept and the social, economic, and physical condition of California Indians deteriorated even further. High unemployment, low educational achievement, poor health, and widespread cultural disruptions were common. Without tribal recognition, Indians had no standing in federal court. They had few, if any, friends, in state government. Indians only had the prospect of a bleak and hopeless future.
In 1973, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act permitted tribes and Rancherias to regain federal recognition. Today over 100 tribes are legally acknowledged in
In 1992, a Congressional report concluded that the governmental policies toward California Indians had been a disaster. The results are “a continuing social and economic crisis, characterized by ... alcoholism and substance abuse, critical health problems, family violence and child abuse, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and significant barriers to tribal economic development.”
In 1987, a potential panacea was unleashed. The Cabazon Band in