Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873

Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873

Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873

Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873

Synopsis

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Euro-American citizenry of California carried out mass genocide against the Native population of their state, using the processes and mechanisms of democracy to secure land and resources for themselves and their private interests. The murder, rape, and enslavement of thousands of Native peoples were legitimized by notions of democracy-in this case mob rule-through a discreetly organized and brutally effective series of petitions, referenda, town hall meetings, and votes at every level of California government. Murder State is a comprehensive examination of these events and their early legacy. Preconceptions about Native Americans as shaped by the popular press and by immigrants' experiences on the overland trail to California were used to further justify the elimination of Native people in the newcomers' quest for land. The allegedly "violent nature" of Native peoples was often merely their reaction to the atrocities committed against them as they were driven from their ancestral lands and alienated from their traditional resources. In this narrative history employing numerous primary sources and the latest interdisciplinary scholarship on genocide, Brendan C. Lindsay examines the darker side of California history, one that is rarely studied in detail, and the motives of both Native Americans and Euro-Americans at the time. Murder State calls attention to the misuse of democracy to justify and commit genocide.

Excerpt

This book was inspired in part by my experiences in academia over the past seven years, including time as a university lecturer and graduate student. As I studied and taught about the history of California and the United States, I encountered many students, colleagues, and faculty unwilling to accept the argument that genocide had been committed upon Native Americans in California and the United States during the nineteenth century. Some suggested that the tremendous loss of lives was instead an unintended consequence or even a necessary evil of the advance of Western civilization or national progress. a common sentiment was that the democracy of the United States in the nineteenth century bore little resemblance to the Holocaust of the twentieth century. the urge to compare, I believe, is not uncommon; many people cannot conceive of any study of genocide without making such a comparison. I am sympathetic to the reasons why one might find it an inescapable comparison to attempt. the Holocaust is so monstrous, so recent, and so well documented (by the perpetrators, in particular) that it often overshadows all else in genocide studies. But my reason for pursuing this study does not rest upon a desire to make a comparison of genocides or measure atrocity against atrocity. Rather the motive for this book rests upon a very practical foundation.

Native Americans in California today are making inroads in matters of health, cultural renewal, sovereignty, and the reclaiming of lost lands and other rights. California voters, teachers, courts, and lawmakers thus continue to face choices that affect Native American people in the state. If my personal experience serves as any indicator of the perceptions of many of these decision makers, it is vital that people should . . .

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