The Great California Genocide

by on March 31, 2015 · 63 comments

in American Empire, California, History, Popular

Junipero Serra1Originally published on August 15, 2008

by gjohnsit / DailyKos / August 14, 2008

What do you think of when someone says “California”? Beaches? Sunshine? Hollywood?

How about the largest act of genocide in American history?

“The idea, strange as it may appear, never occurred to them (the Indians) that they were suffering for the great cause of civilization, which, in the natural course of things, must exterminate Indians.”
– Special Agent J. Ross Browne, Indian Affairs

California was one of the last areas of the New World to be colonized. It wasn’t until 1769 that the first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, was built in California at present-day San Diego. It was the first of 21 missions, which would become the primary means for the Spaniards to subjugate the natives. The leader of this effort was Franciscan friar Junípero Serra.

Franciscan friar Junípero Serra

Junípero Serra

Despite whatever the movies portray, the missions were coercive religious, forced labor camps. Through bribes, military intimidation, and the eventual onslaught of European diseases (that usually targeted children), the colonizers ensured that eventually sick and desperate indians would come to the missions for help. That’s not to say that they intentionally spread diseases, but there was a consistent, two century long pattern.

The indians that wound up there had their children taken from them, and harsh, manual labor was the rule. Beatings and filthy living conditions were common. The death rate at the missions was appalling. By 1818 the percentage of Indians who died in the missions reached 86 percent. Over 81,000 indian “converts” eventually managed to successfully flee the missions.

Soon there were indian revolts.

The San Diego Mission was burnt down in 1775 during the Kumeyaay rebellion. Mohave Indians destroyed two mission in a dramatic revolt in 1781. Military efforts to punish these indians and reopen the route to the pueblas of New Mexico failed.

San Gabriel Mission indians revolted in 1785, and suffered because of it. The Santa Barbara and Santa Inez Missions were destroyed in the Chumash revolt of 1824. Some time after 1810 a large number of guerrilla bands arose that raided the missions and kept them in a virtual state of siege. This led to draconian laws to restrict the movement of indians and forced them to carry papers proving their employment.

In 1834, Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa freed the indians from the mission system and stripped the friars of their power. More than 100,000 indians had died because of the mission system, out of over 300,000 indians that lived in California before the Catholic church arrived.

But that didn’t mean that things returned to how it was before. The Spanish didn’t give the land back to the indians. Instead the land was distributed to political insiders, and a system of ranchos developed. By the start of the Mexican-American War, 26 million acres were controlled by just 813 ranchers.

The True Story of Sutter’s Mill

Johann Sutter

Johann Sutter

Your high school history book mentioned something about Johann Sutter, and how James Marshall, who was building a sawmill for Sutter, discovered gold on the morning of January 24, 1848. Thus forever changing the history of California, and they all lived happily ever after.

Your high school history book left out all the interesting parts.

Sutter traveled to Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) in 1839. He became a Mexican citizen in 1840, and got a land grant of 48,827 acres on June 18, 1841, that became Sutter’s Mill. The history books left off one important piece of information – there were about 200 Miwok Indians already living on that land.

Wikipedia says that Sutter “employed” indians at his mill. Tour guides at Sutter’s Mill will say the same thing today. But the written history says otherwise:

“I had to lock the Indian women and men together in a large room to prevent them from returning to their homes in the mountains at night. Large numbers deserted during the daytime.”
– Heinrich Lienhard, one of Sutter’s managers

Sutter armed Indian men from nearby villages to steal children from more distant villages and sold the captives in San Francisco to pay his debts. Another writer wrote that Sutter “was fond of the young Indian women,” implying that Sutter forced the Indian women into sexual relations.

The real situation was reflected in the testimony of one California Indian who wrote: “My grandfather was enslaved by Sutter to help in building the Fort. While he was kept there Sutter worked him hard and then fed him in troughs. As soon as he could, he escaped with his family and hid in the mountains.”

“The Indians of California make as obedient and humble slaves as the Negro in the south. For a mere trifle you can secure their services for life.”
– Pierson Reading, another of Sutter’s managers

The gold rush that followed didn’t enrich either Sutter or Marshall. Marshall was forced off his land claim by whites even more ruthless than him. In the chaos of the gold rush, almost all of the indians enslaved at Sutter’s Mill escaped, leaving no one to harvest the wheat. Sutter’s land claim was challenged in court and overturned. Sutter died in poverty.

Ironically, the chief of the Coloma Nisenan Tribe had warned Sutter beforehand, “[the gold was] very bad medicine. It belonged to a demon who devoured all who searched for it”.

Gold Rush and Genocide

“A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, January 1851


Peter H. Burnett

“We hope that the Government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a war of extermination until the last redskin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time–the time has arrived, the work has commenced and let the first man who says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor.”
– Yreka Herald, 1853

In 1840 only about 4,000 Europeans lived in California, only 400 of them were Americans. Now a hoard of 100,000 adventurers, gold-seekers, and murderous thugs descended on California. The authorities were completely overwhelmed. The indians faced a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

Numerous vigilante type paramilitary troops were established whose principal occupation seems to have been to kill Indians and kidnap their children. Groups such as the Humbolt Home Guard, the Eel River Minutemen and the Placer Blades among others terrorized local Indians and caused the premier 19th century historian Hubert Howe Bancroft to describe them as follows.

“The California valley cannot grace her annals with a single Indian war bordering on respectability. It can, however, boast a hundred or two of as brutal butchering, on the part of our honest miners and brave pioneers, as any area of equal extent in our republic……”

The handiwork of these well armed death squads combined with the widespread random killing of Indians by individual miners resulted in the death of 100,000 Indians in the first two years of the gold rush. A staggering loss of two thirds of the population. Nothing in American Indian history is even remotely comparable to this massive orgy of theft and mass murder. Stunned survivors now perhaps numbering fewer than 70,000 teetered near the brink of total annihilation.

The local authorities not only ignored the genocide in their midst, they encouraged it.

Rewards ranged from $5 for every severed head in Shasta City in 1855 to 25 cents for a scalp in Honey Lake in 1863. One resident of Shasta City wrote about how he remembers seeing men bringing mules to town, each laden with eight to twelve Indian heads. Other regions passed laws that called for collective punishment for the whole village for crimes committed by Indians, up to the destruction of the entire village and all of its inhabitants. These policies led to the destruction of as many as 150 Native communities.

The state of California also got involved. The government paid about $1.1 Million in 1852 to militias to hunt down and kill indians. In 1857 the California legislature allocated another $410,000 for the same purposes.
In 1856 the state of California paid 25 cents for each indian scalp. In 1860 the bounty was increased to $5.

The most famous of these massacres was the Clear Lake Massacre of 1850, in which between 80 and 400 Pomo indians were slaughtered. A marker placed there in the 1960’s which called the event “The Battle of Bloody Island” was destroyed by vandals in 2002.

To put this into perspective, around 200 indians were killed at the much more well-known Sand Creek Massacre of 1863, and just over 300 were killed in the famous Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Yet you would be hard pressed to find a single person living around Clear Lake today that even knew a massacre had taken place there.

The scale of the genocide in California absolutely dwarfs anything that happened to the Great Plains indians, and is even larger and more complete than the fate of the eastern indians.

The number of massacres are too numerous to list here, but a short accounting include the Bridge Gulch Massacre, the ConCow Maidu Trail of Tears, and the Wiyot Massacre, just to name a few. I don’t even have a name for the massacre of 400 Tolowa indians at the village of Yontoket in 1853, nor the massacre of hundreds more of the same tribe the following year.

What does it tell you about the state of American history in which massacres don’t even have names?

On April 22, 1850, the California government passed the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. This law allowed for any white settler to enslave an indian child with the permission of the parents, or if the child was orphaned. Since indians weren’t allowed to testify in court against a white, this gave white settlers free reign to grab up any indian child that was found. Most didn’t even bother with the laws and just purchased them outright. To give an idea of how the authorities treated the law, consider this letter written by Indian Commissioner G.M. Hanson in 1861.

In the month of October last I apprehended three kidnappers, about 14 miles from the city of Marysville, who had nine Indian children, from three to ten years of age, which they had taken from Eel River in Humboldt County. One of the three was discharged on a writ of habeas corpus, upon the testimony of the other two, who stated that “he was not interested in the matter of taking the children:” after his discharge the two made an effort to get clear by introducing the third one as a witness, who testified that “it was an act of charity on the part of thr two to hunt up the children and then provide homes for them, because their parents had been killed, and the children would have perished with hunger.” My counsel inquired how he knew the parents had been kill? “Because,” he said, “I killed some of them myself.”

The law was later expanded to include indian adults.

According to California law, indians were forbidden to own property, carry a gun, hold office, attend public school, serve in juries, testify in court, or intermarry. On the statement of any white an Indian could be declared a vagrant and bound over to a white landowner or businessman to work for subsistence.

“But it is from these mountain tribes that white settlers draw their supplies of kidnapped children, educated as servants, and women for purposes of labor and lust…there are parties in the northern portion of the state whose sole occupation has been to steal young children and squaws …and dispose of them at handsome prices to the settlers who…willingly pay $50 or $60 for a young Digger to cook or wait upon them, or $100 for a likely young girl.”
– Marysville Appeal

In 1853 the U.S. Senate began negotiating with the indians to set up reservations. The indian tribes gladly agreed to give up millions of acres of land just to have the promise of military protection from the genocide that raged. The indians began moving to the reservation areas in anticipation.
However, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaties. Instead the indians were rounded up at gunpoint to “a system of military posts”. Indians on these “reservations” were hired out to work naked as pack animals.

Each of these reservations would put into place a “system of discipline and instruction.” The cost of the troops would be “borne by the surplus produce of Indian labor.” No treaties were to be negotiated with the Indians; instead they would be “invited to assemble within these reserves.”

“The attacking party rushed upon them, blowing out their brains and splitting their heads open with tomahawks. Little children in baskets, and even babes, had their heads smashed to pieces or cut open. Mothers and infants shared the same phenomenon…. Many of the fugitives were chased or shot as they ran…. The children, scarcely able to run, toddled toward the squaws for protection, crying with fright, but were overtaken, slaughtered like wild animals and thrown into piles.”
– Alta Californian newspaper, 1860

The massacre that the Alta Californian reported, committed by a militia led by Captain W. S. Jarboe, was not only not discouraged, but on April 12, 1860 the state legislature approved $9,347.39 for “payment of the indebtedness incurred by the expedition against the Indians in the County of Mendocino.” The governor wrote a personal thank you letter to Captain Jarboe.

There were some instances of resistance on the part of the indians. The most notable was the Modoc War of 1872-73, in which 53 warriors held off held off nearly 1,000 soldiers for several months, killing 57 of the soldiers in the process.
But mostly it was a series of horrific, one-sided massacres. There were simply too many whites, in too short of period of time, that were too ruthless, against tribes of indians that were mostly peaceful.

By the mid-1860’s only 34,000 indians remained alive in California, a 90% attrition rate, comparable to the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917. Finally, in the 1870’s, the federal government began moving on creating indian reservations in southern California. 13 were created between 1875 and 1877. By 1930 another 36 reservations had been created in northern California.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Patty August 17, 2008 at 9:49 am

I am sick to my stomach.


Michael M August 18, 2008 at 1:36 pm

The historical facts written about in this article – such as the quote from California’s first Governor Burnett in 1851 – are part of the public record in California state and federal government documents. Unfortunately these facts are left out of California educational curriculums. California does itself a disservice by not including this facts – it is not a matter of political correctness, but one of historical fact.


Frank Gormlie August 19, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Michael M – Very, very & sadly true. Not only that, but school texts are absent any detail about the history of Mexico, our immediate neighbor. cinco de mayo is more than an excuse to get drunk, and is not as important as the 19th of September.


Christina Martinez November 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Thanks. My son is taking a trip to Sutter’s fort in January, and I recently got into a terse discussion with a group of parents who are volunteering for the trip. They seem to be okay with the fact that the history being fed to our children at this school is one-sided. I am advocating for a more realistic view of the Fort, including the view point of Native American’s…


Robert Anderson April 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Thank you for this site. There are very few people out there that are wiling and capable of presenting this history to the wider audience. I know many Native Americans who carry stories of these events in their families and in their hearts. But for the non-Natives, it has been excusable and encouraged that they be brought up in ignorance of these events and policies. This state could learn a lot from Germany where denial of their genocide is a crime and it is a requirement to visit memorials or concentration camps before you may graduate from high school. Please keep your site up and running. You are doing a good thing.


Phillip McGaugh May 8, 2010 at 6:38 am

Thank you for this article. Due to the human ego which evolved to protect mankind from external threats, unfortunately, it has also served to protect us from things we don’t want to acknowledge about ourselves.
I think a similar situation has developed with the true history of slavery in this country. The south actually did not participate in the shipping aspect of the slave trade…the slave trade is what actually economically enriched New England. The three main centers for the slave trade were actually Portland, Maine, Boston, and New York City. Great Britain was originally responsible for the majority of the trade in the country until independence, and this is when New Englanders took over the trade. A Mainer was the first to be given the death sentence for carrying a cargo full of slaves in one of his ships. So, my point is “history is written by the winners”.


Laura Julian August 18, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I am beside myself with anger right now, and I turned to the internet to see if there is anyone out there who cares. This is why: California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) owns Yontocket, and the surrounding land. This is the location where over 400 men, women and children were killed in the horrific act of genocide against the Tolowa people. The area is currently protected as a State Park. CDPR wants to change the designation of the area around Yontocket to a State Recreational Area, to allow hunting on the very slough which a survivor described as “red with blood” that night in 1853. In a bizarre parody of a battlefield re-enactment, during hunting season, visitors to Yontocket will hear gunfire, as on the night of the genocide. CDPR, and specifically Director Ruth Coleman, is pushing for this redesignation as a political pay-off to politicians in Del Norte County. This is my heritage, my history. Why does CDPR think they can desecrate this site with impunity? I’ve been told that “Well, that’s small town politics. You aren’t rich enough, or have a large enough lobby group to stop Ruth Coleman.” And that’s why I am so angry. Who do I contact? Who do ask for help? Yontocket deserves to become a National Historic Monument so that it receives the respect it deserves. As a native Californian, I deserve to have my history remembered. The suffering of the aboriginal people of California deserves honor, not dismissal. If you care, tell Assemblymember Wes Chesbro at Let Ruth Coleman ( and Governor Schwarzenegger know what you think.


Annie Druhe September 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I agree that the history of the Native Americans should be remembered however it is the part of the history that most Americans want to hide from their children and from the rest of the world – The majority of White Americans do not want to admit that the roots of our country lies in the blood of the Native Americans – even courses on ethnic study tend to minimize the wrong doing of the White and to put the wrong doing on the Indians. There is too much hypocrisy and racicism in this country! Only Native Americans can keep their history (I should say our history) alive and known to our children through TV programs on history channels at the anniversary of all these massacres – however these programs should be run by Native Americans that would not be shy to face opposition and even controversy.


Bett Gleeson September 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I am an Australian and my great grandfather, his twin brother and an older brother were born of Scot parents named Agnew in California near Dutch Creek/Mosquito area a few kilomentres from Coloma around 1853 during the Gold Rush years. The family subsequently returned to Australia to where they had previously emigrated from Scotland. Researching my family history takes me through the Australian aboriginal Wiridjuri tribal history, which includes unintentional and intentional genoicide as well as a little of good relationship. Exploring the Miwok Indian people of the time my ancestors were in California is equally harrowing and humbling. Being “first Australians”, “first Americans” gave scant respect and value in the face of the avarice of “first Europeans, etc.” Reading here of other aspects of Sutter’s “efforts” confirms yet again the greedy and predatory nature of colonisation and I hang my head in shame and sorrow, not only that my ancestors may have contributed to this, but that this happened at all to anyone. And is still happening around the world in various subtle and not so subtle ways. By transforming this lust for power, and in turn, for one thing, valuing all peoples, maybe then the human race as a whole will experience a lived meaning of peace.


PERRY TWO FEATHERS TRIPP January 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

So very true and yet the errors of our public education system are yet to stand corrected. I am so glad this hit the press as the true stories are yet to be told! Educational materials such as this need to be shared and need to be read!! Yah-wee! Yah-wee. Thanks/Thank you!


OB Mercy January 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I didn’t learn any of this until I was in college earning my degree in archaeology. I had an amazing professor who actually taught a class in the genocide of what we did to the NA. I was ashamed to even be a first generation American from my European father’s side after hearing all of the above from that class. But I feel that I do contribute positively now as a working archaeologist. We work very closely with NA groups all the time on every archeological site we work on. If we’re out there, they are too. It has become a teaching/learning situation for both of us. They know traditions we may not know, and we can teach them things about their ancestors that they may not have known otherwise, had they not been on a dig site. We’re doing our best to rectify many years of wrongdoing…it’s a start at least.


Pat Herron January 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Format: Microsoft Word – Quick View
History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools …
Calif. State Soc. Studies Standards for our public schools (I tried to add the site/or pdf for it above) require our kids to be taught about interactions between Native Americans and “settlers”/the U.S. and Spanish governments, etc. especially in the 3rd and 4th grades. Both my son and I went to school here. My son was taught about the main Indian tribe in San Diego and how they used the forest to survive etc. In 4th grade they were taught about the Spanish. They visited Old Town and one of the Missions. They built cardboard models of the mission. NO WHERE was there any mention of the true history that you have stated here.
I regret to say that I was not aware of this. Since reading Howard Zinn’s, “A People’s History of the United States,” I did know that when Columbus and other Spanish explorers arrived that they virtually wiped out many of the Native people they came in contact with. If anyone doubts this they can read what was written by Father Bartolome de Las Casas, who came over from Spain with Columbus. What I didn’t know was that this continued throughout so much of the history of our state. We should know this. ALL our children should know this. I think it is good that we have State Standards but we also need to make sure that
these standards teach our children what REALLY happened in our history rather than making a cardboard cutout of a Mission that obscures history rather than teaches it.
Thank you very much for educating all of us. I deeply regret the truth of it.


Edwin Decker January 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

People Suck. That’s really what it all comes down to. And not just white people. Don’t forget, native Americans were routinely killing, torturing, enslaving and genociding each other as well. It’s in the human heart to get over on the weak.

Chills me to the bone.


Frank Gormlie January 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

There is that tendency among humans, yes, Ed, but there are other tendencies – like the cooperative spirit, helping each other, like small tribes or neighborhoods do.


John Rippo January 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Who today remembers Antonio Garra, who is buried where he was executed by a firing squad for leading Indians against the locals in a revolt over taxes in 1851? Should you care to see his grave, it’s in El Campo Santo in Old Town, just north of the entrance on SD Ave.

And to think that the Pope wants to make Junipero Serra a saint, too. What a bad joke.


Edwin Decker January 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm

True Frank, True. Thank you for reminding me of that. To paraphrase George Carlin, It’s not so much people I hate, just mobs.


OB Mercy January 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

There’s nothing saintly about anyone involved with the Missions IMHO.


Marisag January 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm

The truth of the Americas is not pretty.


Joan January 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

My paternal ancestors arrived in California in 1817 from Chile. They farmed the lands of what is now known as Berkeley. Over the years I have read the history of California and known of the devastation of the Indian Nations, yet never to the degree depicted here in this blog. Thank you for researching and sharing the truth. It is the forbidden history that must be told.


Alan D. Ackerman March 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

What about the Hawai’ian people ?
They were killed with disease – over 700,000
Then the white man (Americans) overthrew the Kingdom of the Hawai’ian Islands with armed assault on the Queen

This was done with the explicit orders of the President of the United States (Cleveland)
NOT to touch the Sovereign Kingdom


Alan D. Ackerman March 4, 2011 at 9:23 am

If you want I can give you multiple sites showing you these facts
The Hawai’ian Kingdom currently has a King and Queen.
We are fighting for our lives


peggy September 27, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I would love info on what you are talking about. I’m a white girl that grew up in Hawai’i, and was lucky enough to have teachers who taught us the truth of the overthrow and all that (without too much gore). That experience has led me to see the Native Americans in SC, OK, TX, NY and wherever else I’ve lived differently. I’ve been suspicious of any “history” taught in school. I have a place in my heart for Hawai’ians. I (completely of European heritage) claimed I was Hawaiian for years after we moved away. You know what might help, is if the Public Schools in Hawai’i allowed regular white people like me to take the native-only classes in Intermediate and High School. I can’t believe that it’s allowed. The locals need more white people to be educated until they care.


Annie P. Druhe March 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm

The genocide of Native Americans is NOT a forgotten history – it is a part of our country history that most of the people refuse to talk about and do not want they children know about so our schools ignore it. It is pure hypocrisy and racism. We show our children pictures of genocide and holocaust in Europ but we hide what we have done here – instead we told them children that “we are the best” – Now, atrocities against Native Americains have continued in the 20th century – Still during the decades 1970 and 1980 about 40% of the Native Americans women were sterilized against their will in Government Hospitals – during that time all the Human Rights defenders of our country were very vocal against the Chinese government with their policy of One child per family but they were mute about injustice and atrocity here ! I have my own explaination: there is no risk to be vocal (from here) against a foreign country but it could be risky to be vocal in our own country!


Jeffrey Polk March 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm

First of all I’d like to thank whoever runs this site for keeping the comments thread alive so many years later.

For those that want to pull in the Hawaiians, or Mexican history, please, save it for another thread.

This description of the plight of Native Americans in California — told mostly in line with the historical record — is horrific. I have heard NOTHING similar from other states, but, I suppose those histories have been suppressed too. Paying per head is a genocidal as genocide gets. Reading and rereading the info, I keep wondering if there’s some spin on it that I just am not seeing. There is info missing, but not enough to overly cloud the picture.

Believe it or not, I was the basic nature of this information in elementary school in the mid 80’s, followed by the more fun parts of the Gold Rush. I told my parents and they were shocked. Anyone who went through that school learned the same, but may have forgotten it.

HOWEVER, I have had my share of reparations-themed-guilt trips. Native owned casinos as repayment for massacres in the 1850s is ludicrous — but that is exactly how we got a state full of casinos. So I am ambivalent about how loudly this history should be rebroadcast.


Alan D. Ackerman March 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm

‘but that is exactly how we got a state full of casinos’

that is exactly how we got a state = EXACTLY
Wasn’t your ‘state’ to begin with

The US decries genocide thinking they are BETTER than others BUT this shows that you are hypocrites. The reason why you have more than than rest of the world is because you STOLE it.

‘So I am ambivalent about how loudly this history should be rebroadcast.’

Because the Truth hurts ! Doesn’t it ?


Robert March 14, 2011 at 7:34 am

I believe the original comment was that guilt-based reparations by mostly ignorant White people is disengenuous, but did help the California voters vote against the (unconstitutional) attempts at state regulations on Indian gaming in the late 90s and early 2000s. This was his point of ambivalence, as I read it…They guy could be Native for all we know.

I think we all agree on the need for education but there is an additional unfair burden placed on those who have something the dominant society needs to hear. No matter how justified our passions, when we raise our voice we loose a listener.


Jeffrey Polk March 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Wow, where did that come from?

Fact is, it was my state to begin with. I was born here and have lived here my entire life, as were my parents. If that doesn’t make it my state, then I don’t know what would. The idea that anyone whose isn’t the right skin color doesn’t have a right to call this place home is ignorant and racist. None of us “stole” anything from anyone, nor were we granted anything by the government, such as reservations, casinos, preferential admissions into Universities or jobs, by virtue of ancestry. Truth is we’ve worked as hard as any Natives to make our way.


Goatskull March 31, 2015 at 1:23 pm

No one said it wasn’t “your” state. How did you come to that conclusion? If you are referring to Alan D. Ackerman’s comment, I think it’s safe to say he was simply referring to the first white settlers and missionaries taking the land from the people who were already here (and the barbaric way they did it). Now that the deed is done, NO ONE is saying this state isn’t your home and that you should pick up and leave. The only point of this article is that most schools are leaving the dark part of California’s shameful history out of it’s curriculum. In adding these facts to said curriculum it will hopefully give students something to think about and appreciated and THAT will hopefully influence their opinions and decisions later on in life.


Alan D. Ackerman March 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

‘ Wow, where did that come from? ‘

That statement alone shows ambivalence and arrogance
That is why no one knows or cares that this happened
And keeps happening

The state is yours Not the Land That belongs to God

You did not steal it but your ancestors did

I said nothing of color of skin, etc. The US never did acknowledge their crimes

‘ nor were we granted anything by the government, such as reservations, casinos, preferential admissions into Universities or jobs, by virtue of ancestry ‘

No, you were granted the WHOLE state by ‘virtue of ancestry’

Your government much later ‘ granted ‘ the Indigenous people land that already belonged to them
Land that was inhabital, keeping the prime land for themselves. The ONLY thing that those people could do with it in order to survive was to start businesses like casinos, etc

‘Truth is we’ve worked as hard as any Natives to make our way.’
Yes, you did

But your ancestors MURDERED to make their way. And hence yours

Jeff – I have nothing against you – but let’s See the Truth and accept It.
Sticking your head in the sand is not going to change anything


Alan D. Ackerman March 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

BTW – I’m done



Jeffrey Polk March 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Alan, I don’t believe in God. So in that case, is it my state? I don’t mean my state to ruin, I mean my state to care about: socially, culturally, economically, environmentally. I was granted nothing by the US or California government that Natives here don’t receive, and actually a good deal less. For instance, I can’t open a casino.

I do think the story should be told, but I don’t know how loudly. After the full-court-guilt-press for casino reparations, I’ve seen how the masses knowing “the truth” can lead to some pretty awful consequences. And as I said before, the story has been taught in elementary schools at least as far back as the 80s. People just forget.

As for my “ancestors”, no, my ancestors didn’t murder Miwoks or Ohlones or any other Natives in California. I didn’t have any ancestors in California till after 1900. And if they had killed a few, I wouldn’t feel any guilt. We don’t punish children for the actions of their great-great-grandparents.


Zaltanaproductons March 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I am a film student. about a year ago I was doing a project. I wanted to focus on the Sutter Creek Massacre and came up on W.S Jarboe. My friends and I went to the Sacramento State archives and spent the entire day printing the Indian records. We were horrified at what was never taught in school. Then I came upon the Alta California Newspaper 1860. My hero, I have made it my mission to radeam him. And Let his story be told. I just have found his name can any one help. If you would like to see the short clip I have so far go to Youtub zaltanaproductions look on” Eyya Manny Kanni ” Careful thought went into this. We wanted to pay respects to all that were murdered. It is Mewok it means ” Don’t Forget Me” Give your feed back if you don’t mind. It will be a full length motion pic when we are done but is slow in coming. But time is on my side.


mr. wiggles October 14, 2011 at 11:26 am

well, at least you get to live in ocean beach now, and go to big sur etc.


Lucy January 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Thank you ,this sort of truth is what we need to awknolidge.Feel the pain,and shame .then heal from it. Sure this is History and we should study it and not hide it .everyone needs to know the true History.


Patricia Hammel February 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm

If you can find the book “Genocide in Northwestern California: When Our World Cried” by Jack Norton from 1979, read it. It’s all there, though this book is out of print and very difficult to find. Also very difficult to read, if you have empathy for other people.


Patty Jones February 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Thanks for the tip Patricia. I did locate a couple of copies on my favorite used book site but the least expensive copy is $65. But, I did find a copy in the California Library system and put in a request!


Laura Julian February 20, 2012 at 8:50 am

Dear Patty,
I have a copy of Jack Norton’s book that I would be happy to send to you. This book deserves to be read, not just sit on my bookshelf. I would be happy to send it to you if you aren’t able to get it through the library system. is a great website for information on this history.


Laura Julian February 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

There is a new book out from Benjamin Madley,entitled ” American Genocide: The California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. …”. He grew up in Redding California, and teaches at Harvard. I will be purchasing this book, and will be happy to share it when I am done reading it.


Gail Burcell January 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Makes me even more proud of my Karuk blood.


jerry January 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Every tribe has a similar story.


The Human Bagel December 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm

how horrible.. the evil horrible evils of racism the ultimate sin… Evil white ppl need more diversity


Barbara March 31, 2015 at 1:52 pm

I’m surprised at how many people aren’t aware of the facts presented in this well written article.

Remember the context of that time — it was a time when people were still using the Bible as a justification for slavery. History was written by victors. Overrunning or destroying large swaths of people and nations was revered for many many centuries. The Mongols. Hannibal. (Add your dreadful, overrunning, genocidal victor here…) Even the German tribes overran the Roman Empire and took over. The Roman Empire was never resurrected again.

The shift in perspective by us humans seems to have happened after the Holocaust and genocide of peoples (Jews & gypsies, in particular) after WWII.

The facts I’m more concerned about that have NOT been very well researched are what happened to Native American people in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Deportations and I believe that JFK had a policy of taking Native American children out of their home and deliberately sending them to orphanages to be “integrated”. Why and how this was allowed to happen after WWII in America, to me, strikes home much more. The people of the 1700 and 1800’s were a totally different cultural breed than we are today. Death, killing and overrunning other people’s territories had happened for centuries.

Once we made a “humane” turn in our history and decided that genocide/overrunning peoples was unacceptable, why did horrendous discrimination continue anyway? Maybe someone has more research and information on those deportations and orphaned Native Americans?


Goatskull March 31, 2015 at 7:28 pm

See this


Barbara March 31, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Second paragraph at least, but this provides links to A LOT more information)


obracer March 31, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Last week I found a San Diego County Map dated 1909 , I was surprise that 75 % of the county had American Indian names in 1909, over time the names where shortened or changed.


Barbara March 31, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Above I used the term “orphanage” instead of “boarding schools”.

Here’s a glimpse into the resettlement I’m talking about, that I referred to as “deportations”:


barbra corcoran March 31, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Can I simply just say what a comfort to discover someone that genuinely knows what
they are discussing over the internet. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it
important. More and more people should read this and understand this side
of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.


obsurfer April 1, 2015 at 12:59 am

omg. powerful story. thank you. so now what? are you looking to mobilize for a cause to right these disgusting wrongs?


Patterson April 1, 2015 at 3:40 am

As a blissfully ignorant foreigner I started to read this with mild interest, but it drew me in completely, but don’t think I’m flippant when I say The Eagles, Last Resort” kept drifting through my mind.


Marc Snelling April 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm

This article is necessary history to understand how things became they way they are. But comparing what happened in California to the Great Plains or East of the Mississippi makes no sense. Genocides do not need to be rated on a scale. As much destruction as there has been, nations like the Kumeyaay have held on to history and tradition. These stories will continue to be told for generations.


Toypurina Carac April 6, 2015 at 12:03 pm

please go to here – to learn more of our efforts to stop the canonization of Junipero Serra.
It is important to hear the truth from descendants of Mission Indians to learn the truth of our Genocide. Junipero Serra was an Inquisition educated dominator that enslaved the Native Peoples of California in the name of the Church and Spanish crown under the Papa Bulls and Doctrine of Discovery. He was responsible for genocide and his canonization celebrates torture, rape and death.


Charlie April 13, 2015 at 12:41 pm

I am a member of the Karuk Tribe of northern California. Between 1850 and 1852 90% of the male members of my tribe were murdered. My grandmother and mother were both forced to attend Indian boarding school. The federal govt. would come into Indian families homes and literally force the parents to relinquish their children. This practice continued until 1976.


Billie July 27, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Ayukii Charlie. Please contact me so I can learn more of what you know. Thank you!


ted heller July 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

I am deeply saddened to read of the dark history of our state when times were much different. I am the great great great grandson of Peter Burnett the 1st governor of CA.
We need to understand the full story though that some of our fellow American settlers were killed in large numbers by the natives. Hard and aweful decisions had to be made quickly without much information or support from DC. I will research more soon just wanted everyone to know Peter Burnett was a good man and did a lot for CA growth and was a very devoted family man


tom olsonn October 29, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Please tell me how he was any different from Adolf Hitler? “A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851


Greg Nokes January 26, 2017 at 3:49 pm


I’m doing some research on Peter Burnett and trying to local any personal correspondence with Harriett, friends, or anyone else. I do have letters he’s written to newspapers, the Alta, etc., but not personal letters. Do you know of any, or anyone who knows? Thanks for any help.


ted heller July 1, 2015 at 2:21 pm



emily October 17, 2015 at 4:16 pm

i wrote a paper covering this exact topic! I wrote the paper in my California history class in college and when i confronted the professor over the history he was shocked; even he did not know of the atrocities that took place! I took my research to the history honor society in their major research conference in New Mexico in 2014. The audience posed a final question for me, “What was i going to do about it?” I’m currently in law school and plan on obtaining certification in native american law so that i can make known what is wrong so that we as a nation may move forward with the accurate knowledge of our bloody history…


Skybird December 8, 2015 at 11:39 pm

For anyone who’s interested in learning more about the true history of this country, there’s an incredible wealth of historical documents, books, papers, government records, and more digitally archived and available online free. Just a few of the sites where these records can be found are: [National Archives]

A site which has California specific documents, including a copy of the “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians” referred to in the above article is:

When searching these sites I’ve found the most effective way to search is to enter the name of a specific tribe, i.e. Ute Indians or Cheyenne Indians. Regarding this article, “California Indians” would probably work well, and sometimes something more general like “American Indian” or “Native Americans” can bring up some amazing records.

For anyone interested in the treaties, none of which were ultimately honored by the U. S. government, they can all be found in “Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties” on the Oklahoma State University site, listed by either tribe or by year.

Several Universities have accessible digital libraries, as do some states. There are many, many sources of historical records available online now for anyone who truly wants to learn more about our actual history.

On the east coast, the Penobscot Indians, here is a 1755 scalp bounty notice!

Truth is truth whether we choose to acknowledge it or not!

A Little Olde White Lady
Denver, Colorado


Dean Chavers March 12, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I am writing the authoritative book on “Indian Massacres in the U. S.” It will be ready in the middle of 2017, and I hope for a publication date of 2018. I have found 1,825 massacres so far, with the great majority being Anglos killing Indians. I estimate that about 25% were Indians killing Anglos or others. There are a tiny handful of Indians killing Indians, and so on. Will appreciate any help from anyone. Dr. Benjamin Madley of UCLA has the best book on California massacres, published in 2016. It is amazing.


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