Exterminate Them: Written Accounts of the Murder, Rape, and Slavery of Native Americans during the California Gold Rush, 1848-1868

By Joel R. Hyer; Clifford E. Trafzer | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Gold and Gold Rush! The words bring forth romantic images of sourdough miners clad in bright flannel shirts, wearing worn-out Levis, scuffed boots, and floppy felt hats. Bending over the rocky shore of roaring rivers, these white miners pannned for gold with the diligence and perseverance that made America what it is today. American history texts, particularly those designed for young readers, are filled with positive images glorifying the Forty-Niners and the California Gold Rush. The Gold Rush in California is part of the "Mining Frontier" that opened the American West to white civdization, economic development, social advancement, and statehood. What is generally missing from these accounts are California's Indians and the holocaust brought by miners to the First Nations of California.

California's Indians survived the holocaust, but they are not celebrating the Sesquicentennial of the gold discovery at Coloma in 1848. They are lamenting the rape, murder, and enslavement of their people that began with the discovery of gold by Indians and whites at Sutter's Mill on the American River. Native Americans throughout California are remembering that white miners murdered thousands of Indians, raped hundreds of native women and children, and sold thousands of people into slavery. Population figures vary depending on the source, but scholars generally feel that in 1846 the California Indian population was at least 120,000--if not more--but had plummeted by the 1860s to somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000. The most dramatic era of population reduction came between 1848 and 1868, when approximately 100,000 Indians died from disease, malnutrition, enslavement, and murder. In spite of the continued decline of the native population to roughly 17,000 in 1900, California's Indian population has recovered and survived.

-xiii-

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