In what circumstances does a peaceful, native peoples become a 'problem'
to the new, invading inhabitants of a land? These California Indians
were people who owned no jewels to steal, built not a single castle
to over take, held not one famous painting or exotic treasure. The
California native peoples lived simple lives, close to nature, and
in total, sustainable, logical harmony with their natural surroundings
for thousands of years. These are accomplishments on a high intellectual
and environmental order from today's environmental viewpoint, but
showed a marked lack of utilitarian accomplishment from an earlier
industrial viewpoint. It is this matter of point of view that we will
For a native population to go from 300,000 when the Mission System
began in 1769, to 100,000 in 1848 at the beginning of the Gold Rush,
to about thirty thousand by 1860 at the end of the first Mission-style
Reservation System, there must have been a public policy of extermination
that today seems barbarous and cruel beyond imagination. Reduced from
300,000 to 30,000 in less than 100 years is a tragedy on a mass scale.
This means that for every 10 people in their population, only one
was left alive. Why were they nearly exterminated? For one thing only:
How did this happen? Who was at fault? Whose interests did it serve?
can learn more about the prevailing attitudes of those times from
who spoke out against the unjust treatment of the First Californians.
selected passages are excerpted from "The Present Condition of
Indians in Southern California", by Helen Hunt Jackson, 1883
of Adventure in California and Washoe", by J. Ross Browne,1864.