The first 50 years of the American Period was a horrible time for the Native Californians, given the sheer magnitude of what happened during that half century: scalpings of men, women, &children; incarceration in jails with the only way out being enforced indenture to whites for unspecified lengths of time; the kidnapping &sale of Indian children; the massacres of entire Indian villages; the military roundup of Indians and their enforced exile on military reservations where even the most basic of living amenities were lacking; their complete legal disenfranchisement. The outcome of all this was that during the first two decades of the American occupation, the native population of California plummeted by 90 percent - in short, a California version of the WWII Holocaust.
Because of the oppressive, depressing, &horrifying nature of the American period I was tempted, while preparing this web page, to simply summarize what had happend to the Native People. I felt (as several of my students who proof-read the web document did) that human nature, being what it is, would cause people visiting the American Period page to block out the information with which they can't or don't want to deal. In one section the information is so damning towards the Americans that, as one of my students pointed out, many people just won't read it, or worse, they'll conclude that the views &information presented are too one-sided; thus, they may discount the information entirely. Surely, there must have been people speaking out on behalf of the Indians and against the genocide committed against them?
There were a few people who spoke out, who reacted against the savagery of the anglo-Americans in California. Unfortunately, such voices were"crying in the wilderness." They were pushed aside, their humanity negated by a system that promulgated the shibboleths of inevitable conflict, the greatest good for the greatest number, and the most important one, the destiny of the white man.
As I note below, the anglo-Americans believed they were the chosen civilizers of the earth. And contrary to popular myth, the men who ruthlessly destroyed the Native Californians were not the outcasts of society, the footloose riffraff of the United States. In fact, many of the whites often became California's leading citizens. For example, in northwestern California William Carson has been credited with creating hundreds of jobs on the Pacific Coast. Yet, this man participated in the Hayfork Massacre of 1852 where 152 Native Californians were slaughtered. John Carr, in his book Pioneer Days, describes the Massacre and states in the introduction: " It may help ... to rescue and preserve some of the doings of the common people that founded and built up this great State of California" [emphasis added]. With the exception of Isaac Cox, author of the Annals of Trinity County, most white historians who discuss the Hayfork Massacre and the events leading up to it [the killing of the white John Anderson and the stealing of his cattle by the Indians], place the BLAME for the Massacre on the Indians, not on the whites. Even Cox, who states the Indians were justified in having a grudge against Anderson, justifies the massacre: "Be this true or not, the rascals had committed a glaring infraction into the peace and security of the county and to chastise them was proper and laudable."
Below I discuss the 1850 An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, which established the means whereby Indians of all ages could be indentured or apprenticed to any white. Eleven years later an editorial in the Humboldt Times noted:
This law works beautifully. A few days ago V. E. Geiger, formerly Indian Agent, had some eighty Indians apprenticed to him and proposes to emigrate to Washoe with them as soon as he can cross the mountains. We hear of many others who are having them bound in numbers to suit. What a pity the provisions of this law are not extended to Greasers, Kanaks, and Asiatics. It would be so convenient, you know, to carry on a farm or mine when all the hard and dirty work is performed by apprentices
In 1860 the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance which read:
When the city has no work in which to employ the chain gang, the Recorder shall, by means of notices conspicuously posted, notify the public that such a number of prisoners will be auctioned off to the highest bidder for private service, and in that manner they shall be disposed of for a sum which shall not be less than the amount of their fine for double the time they were to serve at hard labor.
What's most telling about this slavery is that it involved Indians almost exclusively. At about this time, J. Ross Browne wrote about this ordinance and the Indians' condition in Los Angeles:
The inhabitants of Los Angeles are a moral and intelligent people and many of them disapprove of the custom [of auctioning off prisoners] on principle, and hope that it will be abolished as soon as the Indians are all killed off.
I hope you will take the time to read the following. It's time Americans faced up to the enormity of the California Holocaust.
In 1848, California became a part of the United States. Under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, California's native peoples were to become citizens of the U.S. with their liberty and property rights given full protection under U.S. laws. However, the govertment failed to live up to these terms and the native peoples suffered horrendously during the next several decades.
Years between 1845 and 1855 brought a flood of Anglos into California. Lured by land and gold, hordes of newcomers poured into California, penetrating into the most remote valleys and mountains searching for gold, timber, &land, and overwhelming the native peoples. The resulting confrontation between the Anglos and Indians was ugly and brutal. Throughout the state the native peoples were the victims of an almost inconceivable tragedy brought on by disease, starvation, and outright genocidal campaigns against them. In a mere ten years, the Indian population of the central valley and adjacent hills and mountains plummeted from 150,000 to about 50,000.
Displaced from their ancestral homes, denied access to critical food and medicine resource procurement areas through such devices as fences and fictional property "rights" of whites, their fishing places choked with mining and logging debris, the native peoples starved to death by the hundreds. Animals were hunted or driven from their old territories; irrigation lowered water tables and native plants withered and died. The rich swamps, once prime resources of food and game, were drained to become farm land. Cattle and pigs ate the grasses and seeds and nuts, foods vital to the native peoples subsistence base.
Added to this was the wholesale slaughter of the native peoples across the state. Anglos, greedy for Indian land and resources, and infused with ideas of their own racial superiority, justified the murder of the native peoples by extolling the MANIFEST DESTINY of the white race. The anglo's institutionalized propaganda perpetuated the myth that the American settler was the chosen civilizer of the earth, attitudes fostered by the press and by the materialistic successes of the ranchers, businessmen, &industrialists. Many miners, settlers, and other anglos treated persons with any degree of native ancestry as slightly less than human. Indians were hunted, shot, and lynched so frequently that newspapers rarely bothered to record such EVERYDAY events.
All across California, groups of anglo males formed "volunteer armies" and would periodically swept down on peaceful Indian villages, indiscrimately killing women, men, and children. In 1853 in northern California a group of citizens from Crescent City formed one of these "companies" and dressed like soldiers they surrounded the Tolowa village of Yontoket. Here, at the center of the religious and political world of the Tolowa people, some 450 Tolowa had gathered to pray to a universal spirit for beauty and order &to thank God for life. Suddenly the anglos attacked - a Tolowa man tells the story, years later:
The whites attacked and the bullets were everywhere. Over four hundred and fifty of our people were murdered or lay dying on the ground. Then the whitemen built a huge fire and threw in our sacred ceremonial dresses, the regalia, and our feathers, and the flames grew higher. Then they threw in the babies, many of them were still alive. Some tied weights around the necks of the dead and threw them into the nearby water.
Two men escaped, they had been in the Sacred Sweathouse and crept down to the water's edge and hid under the Lily Pads, breathing through the reeds. The next morning they found the water red with blood of their people.
The following year, the Tolowas were attacked again with hundreds of Indians murdered, all for the "crime" of taking a horse! According to one anglo account:
... the Indians of the area and the whites were involved in a good deal of trouble. One of the Indians had stolen a horse belonging to a white man.
This was too much for the white people who forgot about their sale of liquor to the Indians, the fact that whites had taken the Indian women for immoral purposes, had beaten the Indians whenever it suited them, and had squattered and seized the Indian's land and game. The Indians had to be punished for the taking of this one horse, and the whites organized a party armed with guns. The group went ... and hid in the brush surrounding the village....
As the Indians, men, women and children, came from their homes, they were shot down as fast as the whites could reload their guns. The Indians were unable to defend themselves as the attackers were hidden in the brush. A few of the Indians who survived the massacre at the village ran toward Lake Earl and plunged into the water. The angered whites followed, shooting at every head that appeared above water, so fierce was their determination to exterminate the entire village as a lesson to other Indians in the area.
The nature of some of the larger operations against the Indians is illustrated well by the Clear Lake Massacre of 1849. It began when two white men were killed by local Pomo. These two men had been brutally exploiting the local Indians, enslaving and abusing them, and sexually assaulting Indian women. The response from the whites was a massive military campaign, characterized by savagery and brutality on the part of the whites.
... many women and children were killed around this island. One old lady ... saw two white men coming with their guns up in the air and on their guns hung a little girl, they brought it to the creek and threw it in the water ... two more men came ... this time they had a little boy on the end of their guns and also threw it in the water. A little ways from her ... two white men stabbed the woman and the baby ... all the little ones were killed by being stabbed, and many of the women also.
The army reported that by the time the masssacre was over more than 400 Pomo had been killed, most of them women and children.
It shouldn't be assumed that all such acts were condoned. The San Francisco Bulletin in 1861 noted:
G.H. Woodman, of Mendocino, states in a letter to the San Francisco Herald, that the Indians there commenced killing stock on September 20, and have killed four hundred head, and have murdered three white men and adds: "If we do not have assistance--immediately, we shall be compelled to move our families and stock out of this valley."
Well, if their whole stock shall be killed and their families driven out of their homes, they would have none but themselves to blame; and it would be but partial justice and punishment to them for the inhuman murders they have committed upon the Indians there. They themselves have been the foulest murderers, or have permitted the murder of unoffending Indians, without raising a word of objection; yet they now whine and call upon others for assistance, but because a few of their cattle have been killed, and their own necks are in danger.
Men who have behaved as they have towards the Indians deserve no protection.
Yet the official position of both the state and federal governments was such that they exuded an air of fatalism which could be interepreted as tacit approval of the killing of Indians. California's governor in 1851, Peter Burnett, stated:
... that a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected. While we cannot anticipate the result with but painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power and wisdom of man to avert.
What makes all of this really disturbing is that such wanton killing was subsidized by both the State and Federal governments. Almost any white could raise a volunteer company, outfit it with guns, ammunition, horses and supplies and be assured that the government would reimburse all costs. In 1851 &1852, the California legislature passed several Acts authorizing payment of over $1.1 million to reimburse citizens for "private military forarys." And again, in 1857, the State authorized an additional $410,000 for the same purposes. And the U.S. Congress reimbursed the state for what was nothing less than SUBSIDIZED MURDER and GENOCIDE. As if that was enough, in 1854, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in California, T.J. Henly, porposed to the federal government that all California Indians be hauled off to a reservation east of the Sierra Nevada mountains in order to "rid the state of this class of population."
Indians often were blamed for crimes they did not commit. For example, in 1849, five white miners were discovered missing from their camp &other miners assumed, with no evidence, that Indians were responsible. They formed a "company" and attacked an Indian village, killing 20 Indians and capturing 80 more. When the Indians tried to escape, all 80 were shot. It was later learned the missing miners had simply gotten drunk and wandered off.
In some regions of the state, the removal of Indians was encouraged by paying bounty hunters for Indian scalps. California newspapers documented many of the atrocities. One headline in 1860 read: "Indiscriminate massacre of Indians - Women and Children butchered." Then followed details of the slaughter of Indians living on an island in Humboldt Bay: "With hatchets, axes, &guns 188 peaceful Indians were killed." The Humboldt Times carried more typical headlines:
Life had become a living hell for the native peoples. And it became geocide when the popular press proclaimed, as the Yreka Herald of 1853 did:
We hope that the Government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a war of extermination until the last redskin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time -- the time has arrived, the work has commenced, and let the first man that says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor.
Atrocities such as these, the scalping, the attacking and killing of innocent women, men, and children, the wholesale massacre of tribes, were not just the result of a few demented individuals but were built into the very social fabric of anglo culture; they were even written into the laws of the state. At the legislative level, discrimination against Indians was nearly absolute, soon losing those rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The California Constitutional convention took away their right to vote by inserting the word "white" in the appropriate sentence of the state's constitution. Furthermore, Indians were forbidden to hold office, own any property, drink alcohol, carry a gun, attend public schools, serve on juries, testify in court on their own or anyone else's behalf, or intermarry with non-Indians. On the statement of any white an Indian could be declared a vagrant and bound over to a white landowner or businessman to work for subsistence.
Then, in 1853 the State Legislature passed an Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. Despite its high sounding title, the Act was nothing more than a legislative way of legalizing the peonage system of the Mexican period as well as establishing a system of indentureship of Indian children to any white citizen - that is, it legalized slavery in what was ostensibly a slave-free state. Among other things the Act:
According to the Act, Indian children could be apprenticed to a white citizen, provided the formal permission of the parents was obtained. If the parents were dead, then a local justice of the peace had the authority to assign an orphan for indentureship until the child reached the age of 25. However, through the connivance of cooperative justices, the Act was easily distorted, and by the 1860s the kidnapping and sale of Indian children was commonplace.
A letter from Indian Commissioner G.M. Hanson, 1861, note only is a comment on the deplorable practice of childnapping, but "an eloquent testament to the careless brutality that was althogether too common:":
In the month of October last I apprehended three kidnappers, about 14 miles from the city of Marysville, who had nine Indian children, from three to ten years of age, which they had taken from Eel River in Humboldt County. One of the three was discharged on a writ of habeas corpus, upon the testimony of the other two, who stated that "he was not interested in the matter of taking the children:" after his discharge the two made an effort to get clear by introducing the third one as a witness, who testified that "it was an act of charity on the part of thr two to hunt up the children and then provide homes for them, because their parents had been killed, and the children would have perished with hunger." My counsel inquired how he knew the parents had been kill? "Because," he said, "I killed some of them myself."
By the end of the Civil War, the barbarities of generations of Spanish, Mexcians, and Americans, the repeated waves of epidemics (such as smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and venereal diseases), the years of starvation, the overwhelming assaults on the tribes' subsistence base, lives, and cultures, and the complete absence of legal protection had reduced the state's Indian population by 90%. When the Spanish arrived in 1769 there were about 330,000 Indians living in California. By 1850, the Indian population had been cut in half (and by the beginning of the 20th century, there would be fewer than 20,000 California Indians still alive). Governor Peter Burnett's goal of extermination of the Indians was being achieved. And yet, the Indians remained.
Even those who voiced "displeasure" with the atrocities committed against the Indians, believed that "progress" and white settlement would inevitably wipe out the Indians and their way of life. In 1852, Governor John Bigler wrote:
I assure you ... that I deplore the unsettled question of affairs...; but the settlement of new countries, and the progress of cvilization have always been attended with perils. The career of civilization under the auspices of the American people, has heretofore been interrupted by no dangers, and daunted by no perils. Its progress has been an ovation -- steady, august, and resistless.
Indians were seen as impediments to the flowering of Anglo civilization: Indians occupied land whites wanted, Indians fished waters that whites wanted to divert for irrigation, Indians ate seeds and nuts that whites wanted for their livestock. Except for the Indians themselves, no one was willing to recognize that the Indians had a right to the land and its resources, land they had occupied for thousands of years. And despite the horrendous outrages committed against them, the Indians were not disappearing. So what else could the whites do to rid themselves of the "Indian problem?"
Long before California became a state, the U.S. Constitution assigned control over Indian affairs to Congress. In 1793 Congress made invalid any title to Indian lands not acquired by treaty. And it was through treaties that the federal government continued a policy, begun in colonial times, of removing Indians from the advancing American frontier, gradually extinguishing Indian title to lands. The basis of Indian cessions was the exchange of occupied territory for goods &services and lands further west. But once California was part of the U.S., this exchange &removal policy was bankrupt.
Within two years of John Marshall's discovery of gold, troubles between the Indians and whites had grown so serious that the federal government sent out from Washington three Indian commissioners to negotiate treaties with the California Indians. Between March 1851 and January 1852, the three commissioners (Redick McKee, Col. George Barbour, Dr. O.M. Wozencraft) negotiated with Indians at various ranches and army posts, mainly in southern and central California. Meeting with 402 "chiefs" or "headmen" they negotiated eighteen treaties. [NOTE: The native people who signed the treaties have never been adequately defined. Some may have been leaders of small, local groups; others simply lineage heads; and some even single individuals representative of no group. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY: less than one-third of the State's native peoples were contacted &yet the federal government decided these few could sign away the rights of the many].
The combined result of the treaties was that the Indians, in exchange for giving up their claims to California, would receive some 7.5 million acres of land (about 8% of the state) for their sole use, along with certain quantities of clothing, food, livestock, farming implements, &educational services.
The first two treaties set the pattern for all that followed:
California's legislature objected strongly to the treaties, opposed U.S. Congressional confirmation, &pushed for federal removal of all Indians beyond the limits of the State. When the treaties reached the U.S. Senate, the majority report (bowing to pressure from California's U.S. senators) noted, in part:
The U.S. Senate asked Senator John Fremont to research the legal status of the California Indians under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. He reported, in part,
The general policy of Spain ... was recognized by the United States... Indian right of occupation was respected ... [&] ... whenever the policy of Spain differed from that of other European nations, it was always in favor of the Indians. Indian rights extended even to alienation under Spanish laws, a right recognized and confirmed in the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.... Statements I have given you, Mr. President, show that ... Spanish law clearly and absolutely secured to Indians fixed rights of property in the lands they occupy ... and that some particular provision will be necessary to divest them of these rights.
Despite Fremont's findings and recommendations, on 7 July 1852 the U.S. Senate rejected the treaties in a secret vote and for the next 50 years the documents remained classified and forgotten by all, except that the Indians did not forget.
What is clear is how dishonest the commissioners were in negotiating the treaties. They were more concerned with making treaties with Indians in the gold country than elsewhere. Of the 52 major "tribal groups" [non-political ethnic nationalities] in California at the time of the treaty making, only about 14 were represented, and these either by 1 or 2 tribelets out of sometimes dozens of tribelets per non-political ethnic nationality.
After the treaty rejection, the government realized they needed to do something about the "Indian problem." The three commissioners were replaced with a Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Congress passed the Indian Appropriation of 1853. The Act authorized five military reservations to be made from Public Domain lands [the total land not to exceed 25,000 acres. The land would not belong to the Indians, but would be owned by the federal. And despite the federal government's declaration that residence would be optional, the U.S. military, assisted by volunteer companies of citizens, began rounding up the Indians &keeping them on the reserves against their wills.
The system was doomed from the start and the Indians quickly learned that they were NOT going to get either the aid or protection promised them. The Indians were not given the tools or training to become self-sustaining, they didn't receive medical care, farming supplies, or much-needed food, and they were not offered legal advice or protection against white settlers. Furthermore, fraud and corruption permeated the system. Beef that was supposed to be delivered to starving Indians was sold instead to miners. The following gives an indication of how the system worked [from a Memoradum of Conversation of Superintendent Beale with Agent O.M. Wozencraft, 1852]
- Question 1. With whom were your contracts for beef made?
Answer. The first was with Mr. S. Norris.
- Question 2. By whome were they issued to the Indians?
Answer. By the traders appointed by myself.
- Question 3. What proof had you that they were issued to the Indians?
Answer. No other proof than the word of the traders themselves.
- Question 4. How were the weights estimated?
Answer. By asking any persons who might be on the ground to say what they thought the average weight of the drove to be.
- Question 5. Have you any further proof than the mere word of the traders, that the Indians ever received the beef without paying for it?
Answer. None; I have not any. I generally saw the beef which was issued during the negotiation of the treaties. It was not weighed.
- Question 6. Have you not given drafts on the government for cattle which are not yet delivered?
- Question 7. Have you not ordered beef to the amount of fifteen hundred head to be delivered between the Fresno and Four Creeks, without every having been to the Four Creeks region?
Answer. I have never been to the Four Creeks region, but have ordered the beef.
- Question 8. How many Indians do you suppose the Four Creeks country to contain?
Answer. I do not know.
- Question 9. If you did not know, how could you determine the amount of cattle necessary for their subsistence?
Answer. From what was promised them by the treaties.
- Question 10. How do you know that the Indians of the Four Creeks ever received any of that beef?
Answer. Nothing further than that I was told so by the traders at the Fresno. I have no proof ot it.
- Question 12. Do you not know that, in some instances, the traders who issued and the contractors for the supply of the beef were the same men?
Answer. I do.
That the Indian agents and traders did very well for themselves is revealed in the following statement from Joel H. Brooks who was employed by J. Savage, "an Indian trader on the Fresno." Brooks told Beale that Savage received 1,900 head of cattle which the government had bought and they were to be distributed to the Indians for their support. However, his instructions from Savage were that
when I delivered cattle on the San Joaquin and King's river, and to other more southern Indians, I was to take receipts for double the number actually delievered, and to make no second delivery in case any should return to the band; and when to Indians on the Fresno, to deliver one-third less than were receipted for. I also had orders to sell all beef I could to miners, which I did to the amount of $120 or $130, and to deliver cattle to his clerks, to be sold to the Indians on the San Joaquin, at twenty-five cents per pound [NOTE: the cattle had already been purchased by the government and were to be distributed free of charge to the Indians]. In October I received a written order from Savage to deliver to Alexander Godey seventy-eight head of cattle, to be driven to the mines, and there sold to the miners and others. I was also requested, in the same communication to destroy the order as soon as read.... In November I received a similar order to deliver to Godey four hundred and fifty head, which was done.... I also gave Savage receipts to the number of seventeen hunred head [of cattle], which I had taken from the Indains [emphasis added].
Exacerbating the problem was that the land set aside for reservations was usually not on the Indians' homeland. Furthermore, members of many different tribes, often hereditary enemies, were forced to occupy the same reservation. Generally, the reservations were sited on land that whites didn't want, with poor soil, little water, and no game to hunt and no plants to gather.
As the anthropologists Alfred Kroeber noted: "the reservations were founded on the principle, not of attempting to do something for the native, but of getting him out of the whiteman's way as cheaply and hurriedly as possible." And as a late 20th century observer noted, the reservations "became a convenient place to dump Natives when whites ran out of bullets or the nerve to murder."
The descendants of the reservation period's native people tell how their ancestors were rounded up, sometimes tied together, and herded like cattle into these concentration camps. Old people, women, children who couldn't keep up, died on the way. For an excellent article about one of California's darker and bloodier historical events, go to The Dark Legacy of Nome Cult, by Jeff Elliott of the Albion Monitor. Mr. Elliott discusses the coming of Whites to Round Valley, Mendocino County, California in the 1850s and the subsequent rounding up of the native peoples and their removal (referred to as the "Death March" by the descendants of those Native People involved) to the Nome Cult reservation.
By the mid 1860s, fewer than 34,000 Indians were left in California. Uprooted from their homelands, neglected by both the State and Federal governments, plagued by disease and chronic illness complicated by severe social, moral, and political disintegration, the Indians were in a state of both material and psychological deprivation. And yet, many Indians struggled to survive by farming small subsistence gardens in addition to laboring for whites. Heavy manual farm labor constituted employment opportunities for both men and women, although gross fraud in payment of wasges was rampant. Often Indians were given goods of one kind or another in lieu of money so as to make the price of a day's labor less than 10 cents. Other employers paid the Indians in cheap liquor. And everywhere, the Indians found themselves evicted from their villages as white settlers swarmed over the land. Even when Indians were relatively secure in their possession of land, neighboring whites confiscated water and imposed outrageous fines for damages done by Indian livestock.
Finally, beginning in the 1870s, the federal government, through a series of executive orders, began to establish some reservation: in 1870 the native people in the southern part of the state were given a reservation (San Pasqual Pala); in 1877 another reservation was established in the San Joaquin Valley on the waters of the Tule River. Between 1875 and 1877, also throught executive orders, the federal government established 13 separate reservations in southern California for the so-called Mission Indians (Ipai-Tipai, Luiseño, Serrano, Cupeño, Cahuilla). Over the next 3 decades, these southern California reservations had their sizes adjusted, sometimes parts were returned to the public domain, sometimes a few acres were added.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the U.S. government, responding to the absolute poverty of many of the native Californians, as well as pressure from various non-Indian groups and Indian demands, established a number of tiny homesteads, or rancherias, in various parts of the state for land-less Indians. Most of these rancherias were very small, ranging in size from five to 200 acreas, had few, if any, resources by which the native peoples could sustain themselves, and were generally located in remote regions, far from medical, legal, educational, and occupational resources. As for which Indian people would get to live on these rancherias, that decision was left up to three federal Indian agents: Charles E. Asbury, Charles E. Kelsey, and John J. Terrell. Of these three, Kelsy was to have the greatest influence on what Indians were given a land-base, and eventually official U.S. government recognition.
While all three agents intended that only Indian "bands," not individual Indians or Indian families, be given rancherias, it was Kelsey who , balancing the available anthropological record concerning the California Indians with the economic constraints surrounding land purchases,
During the 1870s and 1880s the federal government became increasingly concerned with providing education to Indian people throughout the country. Federal policy favored using education as a means to detribalize the Indians and integrate them into the nation's economy. In other words, turn the Indians into whites. Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, the federal government set out to suppress and destroy all vestiges of tribalism and Indian culture.
In California, three types of educational programs were established for the native people:
- federal government reservation day schools
- boarding schools [fashioned after the Carlisle School in Pennsylvannia, the first federal boarding school]
- nearby public schools that allowed Indians to attend
The day schools were primarily established for the thousands of Mission Indians of southern California. Unfortunately, such schools faced many obstacles:
- In drought years, children were removed by their parents who had to leave the arid reservations in search of work
- Gathering children into small ill-ventilated rooms resulted in the spread of communicable diseases
- Many parents objected to the schools because they wanted their children to grow up as Indians, not whites.
Furthermore, funding was so meager that only 20 cents a day was allocated for each student's food, not enough to meet the minimum protein requirements. In addition, teachers and students had to perform most of the maintenance themselves, resulting in a teacher turnover that approached 50 percent in some years.
Elsewhere, the native peoples quickly recognized the schools for what they really were: institutions whose primary aim was to destroy Indian culture and values. This was especially evident at the various borading schools, where the prevailing sentiment was to make the Indians assimilate into the white world. Discipline was harsh: children caught speaking their native languages instead of English were beaten by the teachers. In addition, the children were exploited by the practice of schoolmasters leasing out the students as domestics to which families.
In time, Indians organized and demanded access to public schools in their area. In the early 1920s the state made a feeble attempt at integration by partitioning classrooms and instructing Indian children separately. Not happy with this, one groups of Pom sued the local school board and won the right for their children to be educated alongside whites. And finally, in 1935 all restrictions on Indian enrollment in the state's public schools were removed.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, two things still rankled native Californians: the failure of the U.S. to honor the 18 treaties negotiated in 1852 but never ratified; and the lack of a land base sufficient for the survival of Indian as a people. The second problem was inadequately addressed in 1906 when Congress initiated a series of acts to provide land for homeless Indians in California. By 1930, 36 reservations had been set aside scattered throughout 16 northern counties. However, despite the fact that there were millions of acres of land excellent for agriculture, grazing, and timber held by the government, very little was made available to the native people. Most of the reservations were created from existing home sites while a few quot;rancherias," ranging in size from less than five acres to a few hundred acres, were set aside, generally from land undesired by whites. And in southern California, no lands were set aside for homeless Indians. Instead, the existing reservations were enlarged and/or their water systems upgraded.
A critical issue for many California Indians was how to get the federal government to fulfill the provisions of the unratified treaties of 1851-1852. In the 1920s, various Indian &non-Indian activist groups campaigned to sue the federal government for reimbursement for lands promised them in the treaties but lost to white settlement. After lengthy litigation, in 1944 the California Indians were awarded $17.5 million for the originally promised 7.5 million acres. However, [there always seems to be a however when it comes to anything the feds "give" to the native peoples] not all of this money went to the Indians. First, the lawyers had their fees deducted. Then the federal government deducted all monies spent on Indians during the last half of the nineteenth century (remember all those cattle they sent to the Indians - see above) - some $12 million, leaving scarcely $150 apiece for the 36,000 native Californians.
In 1946, under the Indian Claims Act, California's native peoples brought a second claim for reinbursement asking for compensation for lands not affected by the 1944 settlement (lands taken on other pretenses than the treaty lands), the various Mexican land grants, and reservations originally excluded -- about 65 million acres. Eighteen years later the Indians were awarded $46 million. When all was said and done, the Indians had lost AGAIN and the U.S. had "bought" California for 47 cents an acre.
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