Ishi in Three Centuries

By Karl Kroeber; Clifton Kroeber | Go to book overview

Appendix
The Condition of California Indians, 1906

An Act of Congress, June 30, 1905, authorized the Secretary of the Interior to investigate the condition of California Indians and report some plan for improving those conditions. Pursuant to this Act, Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Agent C. E. Kelsey “visited and personally inspected almost every Indian settlement between the Oregon line and the Mexican border.” This appendix is excerpted from Kelsey’s report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1906.

Your special agent finds an Indian population in California of a little more than 17,000, of which 5200 are reported as living upon reservations… Your special agent has examined their situation and cannot see that their condition is such as to be a matter of satisfaction either to the Government of the United States or to the people of California. The Indian population of California a century ago [is best estimated at] 260,000…. A decrease in the Indian population of 94 percent in a single century, and mostly within forty or fifty years, is certainly exceptional and would seem to be a fact in which we can neither take pride nor escape responsibility….

The Act of Congress which provided for the settlement of the titles to Spanish and Mexican grants (in accord with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ceded California to the United States) imposed upon the commission appointed to make the settlement the duty of first setting apart for Indian use all lands occupied by them. It was the duty of the commission to investigate and confirm the Indian title wherever Indians occupied lands within… a Spanish or Mexican grant… [I have] found but two cases out of several hundred grants where this was done….

The United States has always recognized, and the Supreme Court has held, that the Indians have a right to occupy the land,… a right which can be canceled only by mutual agreement…. no reason has been advanced why the Cali

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