Open main menu

The California Genocide refers to actions in the mid to late 19th century by the United States federal, state, and local governments that resulted in the decimation of the indigenous population of California following the U.S. occupation of California in 1846. Actions included encouragement of volunteers and militias to kill unarmed men, women and children.

California Genocide
Part of the American Indian Wars and the Native American genocide
Nomecult1.jpg
Round Valley Indian Tribe members retrace the 1863 route of the Nome Cult Trail, a forced relocation of Indians from Chico to Covelo, CA.
LocationCalifornia
Date1846–1873
TargetIndigenous Californians
Attack type
Genocide, ethnic cleansing
Deaths4,500–16,000 indigenous Californians outright killed, thousands more died due to disease and other causes
PerpetratorsUnited States Army, California State Militia, white settlers

Under Spanish rule their population was estimated to have dropped from 300,000 prior to 1769, to 250,000 in 1834. After Mexico gained independence from Spain and secularized the coastal missions in 1834, the indigenous population suffered a more drastic decrease to 150,000. Under US sovereignty, after 1848, the indigenous population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000 in 1870; it reached its lowest point of 16,000 in 1900. Between 1846 and 1873, European Americans are estimated to have killed outright some 4,500 to 16,000 California Native Americans, particularly during the Gold Rush.[1][2] Others died as a result of infectious diseases and the social disruption of their societies. The state of California used its institutions to favor settlers' rights over indigenous rights and was responsible for dispossession of the natives.[3]

Since the late 20th century, numerous American scholars and activist organizations, both Native American and European American, have characterized the period immediately following the U.S. Conquest of California as one in which the state and federal governments waged genocide against the Native Americans in the territory. In the early 21st century, some scholars argue for the government to authorize tribunals so that a full accounting of responsibility for this genocide in western states can be conducted.

BackgroundEdit

Prior to Spanish arrival, California was home to an indigenous population estimated at 300,000.[discuss] The largest group were the Chumash people, with a population around 20,000.[citation needed] The region was highly diverse, with numerous distinct languages spoken. While there was great diversity in the area, archeological findings show little evidence of intertribal conflicts.[2]

The various groups appear to have adapted to particular areas and territories. California habitats and climate supported an abundance of wildlife, including rabbits, deer, varieties of fish, fruit, roots, and acorns. This resulted in a high level of food independence. The natives largely followed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, moving around their area through the seasons as different types of food were available.[4]

 
"Protecting the Settlers", an illustration by contemporary witness JR Browne, for his work The Indians Of California (1864)

California was one of the last regions in the Americas to be colonized. Spanish missionaries, led by Franciscan administrator Junípero Serra and military forces under the command of Gaspar de Portolá, did not reach this area until 1769. The mission was intended to spread the Christian faith among the region's indigenous peoples and establish places to develop area resources and products for the empire. The Spanish built San Diego de Alcalá, the first of 21 missions, at what developed as present-day San Diego in the southern part of the state along the Pacific. Military outposts were constructed alongside the missions to house the soldiers sent to protect the missionaries.[citation needed]

California statehood and genocideEdit

 
Estimated native California population (Cook 1978)

In the latter half of the 19th century California state and Federal authorities, incited[5][6] aided and financed miners, settlers, ranchers and people's militias to enslave, kidnap, murder, and exterminate a major proportion of displaced Native American Indians. The latter were sometimes contemptuously referred to as "Diggers", for their practice of digging up roots to eat. Many of the same policies of violence were used here against the indigenous population as the United States had done throughout its territory.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Simultaneous to the ongoing extermination, reports of the decimation of Native Americans were made to the rest of the United States and internationally.[note 1]

The California Act for the Government and Protection of Indians was enacted in 1850 (amended 1860, repealed 1863). This law provided for "apprenticing" or indenturing Indian children to Whites, and also punished "vagrant" Indians by "hiring" them out to the highest bidder at a public auction if the Indian could not provide sufficient bond or bail. This legalized a form of slavery in California.[14]

A notable early eyewitness testimony and account: "The Indians of California" 1864, is from John Ross Browne, Customs official and Inspector of Indian Affairs on the Pacific Coast. He systematically described the fraud, corruption, land theft, slavery, rape and massacre perpetrated on a substantial portion of the aboriginal population.[15] This was confirmed by a contemporary, Superintendent Dorcas J. Spencer.[16]

By one estimate, at least 4,500 California Indians were killed between 1849 and 1870.[17] Contemporary historian Benjamin Madley has documented the numbers of California Indians killed between 1846 and 1873; he estimates that during this period at least 9,400 to 16,000 California Indians were killed by non-Indians. Most of the deaths took place in what he defined as more than 370 massacres (defined as the "intentional killing of five or more disarmed combatants or largely unarmed noncombatants, including women, children, and prisoners, whether in the context of a battle or otherwise").[18] Professor Ed Castillo, of Sonoma State University, estimates that more were killed: "The handiwork of these well armed death squads combined with the widespread random killing of Indians by individual miners resulted in the death of 100,000 Indians in the first two years of the gold rush."[19]

List of recorded massacresEdit

Year Date Name Current location Description Reported casualties Claimants
1846 April 6 Sacramento River massacre California Captain John C. Frémont's men attacked a band of Indians (probably Wintun) on the Sacramento River in California, killing between 120 and 200 Indians. 120–200 [20]
1846 May 12 Klamath Lake massacre California Captain John C. Frémont's men, led by Kit Carson attacked a village of Klamath Indians) on the banks of Klamath Lake, killing at least 14 Klamath people. 14+ [21]
1846 June Sutter Buttes massacre California Captain John C. Frémont's men attacked a rancheria on the banks of the Sacramento River near Sutter Buttes, killing several Patwin people. 14+ [21]
1846 December Pauma massacre California 11 Californios were killed by Indians at Escondido, California, leading to the Temecula massacre. 11 (settlers) [22]
1846 December Temecula massacre California 33 to 40 Indians killed in revenge for the Pauma Massacre at Escondido, California. 33–40 [22]
1847 March Rancheria Tulea massacre California White slavers retaliate to a slave escape by massacring five Indians in Rancheria Tulea. 5 [21]
1847 March 29 Kern and Sutter massacres California In response to a plea from White settlers to put an end to raids, U.S. Army Captain Edward Kern and rancher John Sutter led 50 men in attacks on three Indian villages. 20 [21]
1847 late June/early July Konkow Maidu slaver massacre California Slavers kill 12–20 Konkow Maidu Indians in the process of capturing 30 members of the tribe for the purpose of forced slavery. 12–20 [21]
1850 May 15 Bloody Island massacre California Nathaniel Lyon and his U.S. Army detachment of cavalry killed 60–100 Pomo people on Bo-no-po-ti island near Clear Lake, (Lake Co., California); they believed the Pomo had killed two Clear Lake settlers who had been abusing and murdering Pomo people. (The Island Pomo had no connections to the enslaved Pomo). This incident led to a general outbreak of settler attacks against and mass killing of native people all over Northern California. Site is California Registered Historical Landmark #427 60–100 [23][24][25]
1851 January 11 Mariposa War California The gold rush increased pressure on the Native Americans of California, because miners forced Native Americans off their gold-rich lands. Many were pressed into service in the mines; others had their villages raided by the army and volunteer militia. Some Native American tribes fought back, beginning with the Ahwahnechees and the Chowchilla in the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley leading a raid on the Fresno River post of James D. Savage, in December 1850. In retaliation Mariposa County Sheriff James Burney led local militia in an indecisive clash with the natives on January 11, 1851 on a mountainside near present-day Oakhurst, California. 40+
1851 Old Shasta Town California Miners killed 300 Wintu Indians near Old Shasta, California and burned down their tribal council meeting house. 300 [26]
1852 April 23 Bridge Gulch massacre California 70 American men led by Trinity County sheriff William H. Dixon killed more than 150 Wintu people in the Hayfork Valley of California, in retaliation for the killing of Col. John Anderson. 150 [27]
1852 November Wright massacre California White settlers led by a notorious Indian hunter named Ben Wright massacred 41 Modocs during a "peace parley". 41 [28]
1853 Howonquet massacre California Californian settlers attacked and burned the Tolowa village of Howonquet, massacring 70 people. 70 [29]
1853 Yontoket Massacre California A posse of settlers attacked and burned a Tolowa rancheria at Yontocket, California, killing 450 Tolowa during a prayer ceremony. 450 [30][31]
1853 Achulet Massacre California White settlers launched an attack on a Tolowa village near Lake Earl in California, killing between 65 and 150 Indians at dawn. 65–150 [32]
1853 Before December 31 "Ox" incident California U.S. forces attacked and killed an unreported number of Indians in the Four Creeks area (Tulare County, California) in what was referred to by officers as "our little difficulty" and "the chastisement they have received". [33]
1855 January 22 Klamath River massacres California In retaliation for the murder of six settlers and the theft of some cattle, whites commenced a "war of extermination against the Indians" in Humboldt County, California. [34]
1856 March Shingletown California In reprisal for Indian stock theft, white settlers massacred at least 20 Yana men, women and children near Shingletown, California. 20 [35]
1856–1859 Round Valley Settler Massacres California White settlers killed over a thousand Yuki Indians in Round Valley over the course of three years in an uncountable number of separate massacres. 1,000+ [36][37]
1859–1860 Jarboe's War California White settlers calling themselves the "Eel River Rangers", led by Walter Jarboe, kill at least 283 Indian men and countless women and children in 23 engagements over the course of six months. They are reimbursed by the U.S. government for their campaign. 283+ [36]
1859 September Pit River California White settlers massacred 70 Achomawi Indians (10 men and 60 women and children) in their village on the Pit River in California. 70 [38]
1859 Chico Creek California White settlers attacked a Maidu camp near Chico Creek in California, killing indiscriminately 40 Indians. 40 [39]
1860 Exact date unknown Massacre at Bloody Rock California A group of 65 Yuki Indians were surrounded and massacred by white settlers at Bloody Rock, in Mendocino County, California. 65 [40]
1860 February 26 Indian Island massacre California In three nearly simultaneous assaults on the Wiyot, at Indian Island, Eureka, Rio Dell, and near Hydesville, California white settlers killed between 80 and 250 Wiyot in Humboldt County, California. Victims were mostly women, children and elders, as reported by Bret Harte at Arcata newspaper. Other villages massacred within two days. The main site is National Register of Historic Places in the United States #66000208. 80–250 [41][42][43][44]
1863 April 19 Keyesville massacre California American militia and members of the California cavalry killed 35 Tübatulabal men in Kern County, California. 35 [45]
1863 August 28 Konkow Trail of Tears California On August 1863 all Konkow Maidu were to be sent to the Bidwell Ranch in Chico and then be taken to the Round Valley Reservation at Covelo in Mendocino County. Any Indians remaining in the area were to be shot. Maidu were rounded up and marched under guard west out of the Sacramento Valley and through to the Coastal Range. 461 Native Americans started the trek, 277 finished.[46] They reached the Round Valley on 18 September 1863. 184 [46]
1864 Oak Run massacre California California settlers massacred 300 Yana Indians who had gathered near the head of Oak Run, California for a spiritual ceremony. 300 [47]
1865 Owens Lake massacre California White vigilantes attacked a Paiute camp on Owens Lake in California, killing about 40 men, women and children. 40 [48]
1865 Three Knolls massacre California White settlers massacred a Yana community at Three Knolls on the Mill Creek, California. [49][50]
1868 Campo Seco California A posse of white settlers massacred 33 Yahis in a cave north of Mill Creek, California. 33 [51][52]
1871 Kingsley Cave massacre California 4 settlers killed 30 Yahi Indians in Tehama County, California about two miles from Wild Horse Corral in the Ishi Wilderness. It is estimated that this massacre left only 15 members of the Yahi tribe alive 30 [53]

Call for tribunalsEdit

Native American scholar Gerald Vizenor has argued in the early 21st century for universities to be authorized to assemble tribunals to investigate these events. He notes that United States federal law contains no statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide. He says:

Genocide tribunals would provide venues of judicial reason and equity that reveal continental ethnic cleansing, mass murder, torture, and religious persecution, past and present, and would justly expose, in the context of legal competition for evidence, the inciters, falsifiers, and deniers of genocide and state crimes against Native American Indians. Genocide tribunals would surely enhance the moot court programs in law schools and provide more serious consideration of human rights and international criminal cases by substantive testimony, motivated historical depositions, documentary evidence, contentious narratives, and ethical accountability.[54]

Vizenor believes that, in accordance with international law, the universities of South Dakota, Minnesota and California Berkeley ought to establish tribunals to hear evidence and adjudicate crimes against humanity alleged to have taken place in their individual states.[55] Lindsay Glauner has also argued for such tribunals.[56]

Apology by California's governorEdit

In a speech before representatives of Native American peoples in June, 2019, California governor Gavin Newsom apologized for the genocide. Newsom said, "That’s what it was, a genocide. No other way to describe it. And that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books."[57]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Aboriginal Americans. Quote: "Dr. MacGowan, in a lecture delivered at New York, estimated the present number of Indians in the United States to be about 250,000, and said that unless something prevented the oppression and cruelty of the white man, these people would gradually become reduced, and finally extinct. He predicted the total extermination of the Digger Indians of California and the tribes of other States, within ten years, if something were not done for their relief. The lecturer concluded by strongly urging the establishment of a Protective Aborigines Society, something similar to the society in England to prevent cruelty to animals. By this means he thought the condition of the Indian might be improved and the race longer perpetuated." The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 274 (Mar. 31, 1866), p. 350

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Madley, Benjamin (2016). An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.
  2. ^ a b "California Genocide". Indian Country Diaries. PBS. September 2006. Archived from the original on May 6, 2007.
  3. ^ Lindsay, Brendan C. (2012). Murder State: California's Native American Genocide 1846-1873. United States of America: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 2, 3. ISBN 978-0-8032-6966-8.
  4. ^ Castillo, Edward. "A Short Overview of California Indian History". Native American Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  5. ^ On January 6, 1851 at his State of the State address to the California Senate, 1st Governor Peter Burnett said: "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert."
  6. ^ Burnett, Peter (January 6, 1851). "State of the State Address". California State Library. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  7. ^ Coffer, William E. (1977). "Genocide of the California Indians, with a Comparative Study of Other Minorities". The Indian Historian. San Francisco, CA. 10 (2): 8–15.
  8. ^ Norton, Jack. Genocide in Northwestern California: 'When our worlds cried'. Indian Historian Press, 1979.
  9. ^ Lynwood, Carranco; Beard, Estle (1981). Genocide and Vendetta: The Round Valley Wars of Northern California. University of Oklahoma Press.
  10. ^ Lindsay, Brendan C. (2012). Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846–1873. University of Nebraska Press.
  11. ^ Johnston-Dodds, Kimberly (September 2002). Early California Laws and Policies Related to California Indians (PDF). Sacramento, CA: California State Library, California Research Bureau. ISBN 1-58703-163-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 12, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  12. ^ Trafzer, Clifford E.; Lorimer, Michelle (2014). "Silencing California Indian Genocide in Social Studies Texts". American Behavioral Scientist. 58 (1): 64–82. doi:10.1177/0002764213495032.
  13. ^ Madley, Benjamin (May 22, 2016). "Op-Ed: It's time to acknowledge the genocide of California's Indians". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  14. ^ Ojibwa (March 2, 2015). "California's War On Indians, 1850 to 1851". Native American Netroots. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019.
  15. ^ Chapter III p284
  16. ^ Browne, J. Ross (1864). The California Indians, a Clever Satire on the Government's Dealings with its Indian Wards. Harper Brothers. p. 17.
  17. ^ "Minorities During the Gold Rush". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014.
  18. ^ Madley, Benjamin (2016). An American Genocide, The United States and the California Catastrophe, 1846–1873. Yale University Press. pp. 11, 351. ISBN 978-0-300-18136-4.
  19. ^ Castillo, Edward D. "California Indian History". California Native American Heritage Commission. Archived from the original on June 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Kiernan 2007, p. 352
  21. ^ a b c d e Madley, Benjamin (2016). An American Genocide: The United States and the California India Catastrophe, 1846–1873. Yale University Press.
  22. ^ a b Parker, Horace (1971). The Temecula Massacre. The Historic Valley of Temecula. Paisano Press. OCLC 286593.
  23. ^ Letter, Brevet Capt. N. Lyon to Major E.R.S. Canby, May 22, 1850
  24. ^ Heizer 1993, pp. 244–246
  25. ^ Key, Karen (September 24, 2006). Prats, J. J. (ed.). "Bloody Island (Bo-no-po-ti)". The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
  26. ^ Heizer, Robert; Sturtevant, William, eds. (1978). Handbook of North American Indians. 8: California. Smithsonian Institution. pp. 324–325. ISBN 978-0-16-004574-5.
  27. ^ Norton 1979, pp. 51–54
  28. ^ Thrapp, Dan L (1991). "Schonchin John". Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography. III: P–Z. University of Nebraska Press. p. 1276. ISBN 978-0-8032-9420-2.
  29. ^ Collins, James (1997). Understanding Tolowa Histories: Western Hegemonies and Native American Responses. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-41591-2082.
  30. ^ Thornton 1990, p. 206
  31. ^ Norton 1979
  32. ^ Norton 1979, pp. 56–57
  33. ^ Heizer 1993, Letter, Bvt. 2nd Lieut. John Nugens to Lieut T. Wright, December 31, 1853, pp. 12–13,.
  34. ^ Heizer 1993, Crescent City Herald, quoted in Sacramento newspaper., pp. 35–36
  35. ^ Madley 2012b, pp. 21–22
  36. ^ a b Madley, Benjamin (Autumn 2008). "California's Yuki Indians: Defining Genocide in Native American History". Western Historical Quarterly. 39 (3): 317–318. JSTOR 25443732.
  37. ^ Lindsay, Brendan C. (2012). Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846–1873. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 192–193. ISBN 978-0-8032-2480-3.
  38. ^ Madley 2012, pp. 118–119
  39. ^ Madley 2012, p. 117
  40. ^ "65 Yuki Indians Killed at Bloody Rock". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  41. ^ Heizer 1993
  42. ^ Rohde, Jerry (February 25, 2010). "Genocide and Extortion: 150 years later, the hidden motive behind the Indian Island Massacre". North Coast Journal. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
  43. ^ Kowinski, William S. (February 28, 2004). "In 1860 six murderers nearly wiped out the Wiyot Indian tribe -- in 2004 its members have found ways to heal". SFGate. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  44. ^ Michno 2003, pp. 72–73
  45. ^ "Keysville Massacre, April 19, 1863 (From Military Correspondence)". Kern County Historical Society Quarterly. 4a (2): 5–8. November 1952 – via vredenburgh.org.
  46. ^ a b Dizard, Jesse A. (2016). "Nome Cult Trail". ARC-GIS storymap. technical assistance from Dexter Nelson and Cathie Benjamin. Department of Anthropology, California State University, Chico – via Geography and Planning Department at CSU Chico.
  47. ^ Madley, Benjamin (2012). "The Genocide of California's Yana Indians". In Totten, Samuel; Parsons, Williams S. (eds.). Centuries of Genocide: Essays and Eyewitness Accounts. Routledge. pp. 16–53. ISBN 978-0-415871-921.
  48. ^ Fradkin, Philip L. (1997). The Seven States of California: A Natural and Human History. University of California Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-520-20942-8.
  49. ^ Thornton 1990, p. 110
  50. ^ Scheper-Hughes 2003, p. 55
  51. ^ Thornton 1990, p. 111
  52. ^ ScheperHughe 2003, p. 56
  53. ^ Ishi in Two Worlds (PDF) (Video transcript). California State Parks. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 23, 2005.
  54. ^ Vizenor, Gerald (2009). Native Liberty: Natural Reason and Cultural Survivance. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-8032-1892-5.
  55. ^ Victorin-Vangerud, Aaron (March 6, 2010). "Gerald Vizenor: "Genocide Tribunals: Native Human Rights and Survivance" – A talk given at the IAS on October 10, 2006". Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013.
  56. ^ Glauner, Lindsay (Spring 2001). "Need for Accountability and Reparations: 1830-1976 the United States Government's Role in the Promotion, Implementation, and Execution of the Crime of Genocide against Native Americans". DePaul Law Review. 51 (3): 915–916. Therefore, in accordance to Article IV of the Genocide Convention [1948], which requires all parties to prosecute those charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide, regardless of their capacity as a ruler or public official, in a competent tribunal within the State where the crime took place or in a competent international tribunal that has proper jurisdiction over the case, any persons or agencies that commit acts of genocide within the territory of the United States must be held accountable for their crimes.
  57. ^ Cowan, Jill (June 19, 2019). "'It's Called Genocide': Newsom Apologizes to the State's Native Americans". The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2019.

ReferencesEdit

  • Chapman, Charles E. (1921). A History of California; The Spanish Period. New York: The MacMillan Company.
  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin (1922). San Juan Capistrano Mission. Los Angeles, California: Standard Printing Co.
  • Kelsey, Harry (1993). Mission San Juan Capistrano: A Pocket History. Altadena, California: Interdisciplinary Research, Inc. ISBN 978-0-9785881-0-6.
  • Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. San Diego, California: Sunbelt Publications. ISBN 978-0-932653-30-7.
  • Paddison, Joshua, ed. (1999). A World Transformed: Firsthand Accounts of California Before the Gold Rush. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. ISBN 978-1-890771-13-3.
  • Hinton, Alexander Laban; Woolford, Andrew; Benvenuto, Jeff, eds. (2014). Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America. Duke University Press.