Monday, October 19, 2020

The Golden State Built on Blood

  A white man was found with a small young Indian child. He was asked "What are you doing with this child?" He answered, "I am protecting him. He's an orphan." "And how do you know he's orphan?" , "I killed his parents." was the reply.

In just 20 years, after gold was found, 80 percent of California’s Native Americans were wiped out. An estimated 100,000 Native Americans died during the first two years of the Gold Rush alone; by 1873, only 30,000 indigenous people remained of around 150,000. And though some died because of the seizure of their land or diseases caught from new settlers, between 9,000 and 16,000 were murdered in cold blood—the victims of a policy of genocide sponsored by the state of California and gleefully assisted by its new citizens.  In 1848, California became the property of the United States as one of the spoils of the Mexican-American War. Then, in 1850, it became a state. 

The Act for the Governance and Protection of Indians was passed in 1850. The name of the law sounds benign, but it was malign in the extreme. It allowed Native Americans to be enslaved  even though California was admitted to the union as a free state - free as in no black slavery allowed. Indian men, women and children were openly bought and sold in city streets throughout the 1850s. The act "facilitated removing California Indians from their traditional lands, separating at least a generation of children and adults from their families, languages, and cultures (1850 to 1865). This California law provided for "apprenticing" or indenturing Indian children and adults 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. White settlers and the California government enslaved native people and forced them to labor for ranchers through at least the mid-1860s. Native Americans were then forced onto reservations and their children forced to attend “Indian assimilation schools.” It permitted the ownership of Indian children (Section 3: "Any person ... obtaining a minor Indian ... and wishing to keep it",) In 1860 the act was expanded to provide for the ownership of Indian men and women into adulthood. And the Act denied Indians equal standing under the law (Section 6: "In no case shall a white man be convicted of any offence upon the testimony of an Indian").

 Governor Peter Hardeman Burnett explained in his  speech of January 6th, 1851, "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected.” 

He proceeded to set aside state money to arm local militias against Native Americans. Militias raided tribal outposts, shooting and sometimes scalping Native Americans. Soon, local settlers began to do the killing themselves. Local authorities placed bounties on Native AmericansAnd at one point the price was about of for a male body part, whether it was a scalp, a hand, or the whole body; and then $5 for a child or a woman. In many cases, they only had to bring in the scalp. And in other cases, the whole body was brought in to prove that they had this individual, they'd killed this person, and receive their reward. 

Militia expeditions and vigilantes to kill at least 6,460 California Indians between 1846 and 1873. The U.S Army also joined in the murder spree, killing at least 1,600 native Californians.

In 1850, for example, around 400 Pomo people, including women and children, were slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry and local volunteers at Clear Lake north of San Francisco.

It wasn't until after 1900 when the law was repealed and many Californians learned the fact that it was still legal to kill Native Americans. California only apologized for the genocide it carried out against its indigenous residents in 2019.

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