The Destruction of California Indians: A Collection of Documents from the Period 1847 to 1865 in Which Are Described Some of the Things That Happened to Some of the Indians of California

The Destruction of California Indians: A Collection of Documents from the Period 1847 to 1865 in Which Are Described Some of the Things That Happened to Some of the Indians of California

The Destruction of California Indians: A Collection of Documents from the Period 1847 to 1865 in Which Are Described Some of the Things That Happened to Some of the Indians of California

The Destruction of California Indians: A Collection of Documents from the Period 1847 to 1865 in Which Are Described Some of the Things That Happened to Some of the Indians of California

Synopsis

The Destruction of California Indians "is so powerful that every American should read it. These accounts of the activities of agents, military officers, and newspapers reveal how thousands of California natives died from 1847 to 1865 from starvation, disease, drunkenness, enslavement, rape, murder, and warfare. . . . The editor lets the documents tell the story and has provided organization and balance which make it possible to trace themes while letting the reader draw the conclusions."-Library JournalCalifornia is a contentious arena for the study of the Native American past. Some critics say genocide characterized the early conduct of Indian affairs in the state; others say humanitarian concerns. Robert F. Heizer, in the former camp, has compiled a damning collection of contemporaneous accounts that will provoke students of California history to look deeply into the state's record of race relations and to question bland generalizations about the adventuresome days of the Gold Rush.Robert F. Heizer's many works include the classic The Other Californians: Prejudice and Discrimination under Spain, Mexico, and the United States to 1920 (1971), written with Alan Almquist. In his introduction, Albert L. Hurtado sets the documents in historical context and considers Heizer's influence on scholarship as well as the advances made since his death. A professor of history at Arizona State University, Hurtado is the author of Indian Survival on the California Frontier.

Excerpt

Robert F. Heizer, the anthropologist who compiled this volume, was angry about the history of California Indians. To understand his wrath, one need look no further than the basic facts of California Indian history. After the arrival of Europeans in 1769, the native Californian population plunged from over three hundred thousand to about thirty thousand by 1860. This appalling rate of decline resulted from disease, cultural dislocation, dispossession, and--to a lesser extent--outright homicide. Newcomers--Spaniards, Mexicans, and Anglo-Americans--were responsible for these shocking developments. Heizer's outraged reaction to this terrible story was not uncommon. Contemporary observers, modern historians, and Indians alike have railed against the human and impersonal forces that devastated the California Indians.

The first European settlements brought disaster. Beginning in 1769, a Spanish military and religious expedition founded a series of Catholic missions, presidios (forts), and pueblos in Alta California. The missions were supposed to Hispanicize and Christianize the Indians of California, and they were partially successful. The Crown authorized the missionaries to create vast farms and livestock ranchos where Indian neophytes provided a convenient labor force. Twenty-one missions became the homes of tens of thousands of Indians until the Mexican government, which ruled California after 1821, disbanded these institutions.

From the Spanish perspective, Franciscan missionaries had humanitarian goals, but they unintentionally introduced diseases new to California Indians, who died at a stunningly rapid pace. During the mission era, the Indian population fell by perhaps one hundred thousand. At the same time, Indians began to form raiding societies . . .

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