Where Did All the Indians Go?

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I grew up in southern Idaho and eastern Washington next to large Native American Indian reservations. I went to grade school, junior high and high school with kids from the rez; some were friends, others were rivals, one was my high school sweetheart.

Even to my very young eyes, it was obvious that the Indians on the Fort Hall Reservation in the high desert near Pocatello were living in poverty-stricken conditions; circumstances on the Colville Reservation near Grand Coulee Dam were slightly better, but still grim.

It was also clear to me the Indians were a defeated people, even though our history books in school presented a white-washed version of Western conquest featuring Sacagawea as Lewis and Clark’s friendly and willing guide through the wilderness, and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his armed-to-the-teeth 7th Calvary as courageous underdogs at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

It wasn’t just Custer’s Last Stand. It was the last stand for the Indians, too, as their descendants living in crushing poverty on large Indian reservations four generations later made painfully apparent to me.

I moved to California right after high school in 1978, and one of the first things I wondered was, “Where are all the Indians?” Besides the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation secluded in the state’s northwest corner, there didn’t appear to be any large tracts of Indian land, or large groups of Indians, in northern California.

Where did they all go?

As it turns out, that’s the same question that led UCLA historian and north state native Benjamin Madley to write “An American Genocide: The United States and California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873.” Published in 2016 to accolades and awards, Bradley recently talked about his book at the Cascade Theatre. I missed the event, but I bought the Kindle version of the book and was not disappointed, for Madley has indeed answered the question,Where did all the Indians go? The short answer is that white people systematically attempted to exterminate them, and almost succeeded.

Through a painstaking and often gory review of historical records that document 370 separate Indian massacres across California perpetrated by the U.S. Army, state militias and vigilantes between 1846 and 1873, Madley argues that in the wake of gold rush immigration, the newly minted state of California, with federal help, assembled an Indian “killing machine” that resulted in the murder of upwards of 16,000 Indians, a war crime that today would be classified as genocide under the U.N. Genocide Convention.

Chances are that many more than 16,000 Native American Indians were taken by California’s killing machine, since not all Indian deaths were recorded, and many of California’s Indian tribes practiced cremation upon death. Thanks to depredations and disease spread by previous Spanish, Mexican and Russian colonists, the Indian population had been halved, from roughly 310,000 before European settlement to 150,000, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. By 1873 there were just 30,000 Indians left.

History buffs might note that the U.N. Genocide Convention was established in 1948, in response to the systematic mass murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany, which occurred some 70 years after the events described in “An American Genocide.” They might accuse Madley of presentism, applying present day standards to a past when the standard didn’t exist. Perhaps they might have a point.

But Madley styles himself as an “activist historian,” and today’s convention proves a useful tool for gauging the many extremely disturbing atrocities perpetrated by white people against Indians meticulously documented in “An American Genocide.” These crimes include kidnapping, rape, enslavement and the mass murder of mostly peaceful Indian men, women and children, including babies, via rifle, pistol, sabers, Bowie knives and tomahawks.

“The California Indian catastrophe fits the two-part legal definition set forth in the U.N. Genocide Convention,” Madley writes. “First, various perpetrators demonstrated, in word and deed, their ‘intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such. Second, at different times a variety of perpetrators committed examples of all five acts of genocide listed in the convention.”

The five acts of genocide listed by the U.N. are:
• Killing members of the group;
• Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
• Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
• Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
• Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Mandley opens with a concise but rich history of California’s estimated 60 diverse Indian tribes and the land of plenty they inhabited before European settlement. Throughout the book, a similar description is given for each tribe just before it’s massacred by white colonists.

Historians agree that California’s Indian tribes were mostly a peaceful, with multiple languages and prowess in farming, hunting and fishing. Some tribes used seashells for currency and traded with other tribes.

Their way of life was brutally interrupted by Spain and the Franciscan missionaries in 1769. As mentioned, contact with the Spanish and other early colonists halved California’s Indian population to just 150,000 before the gold rush.

While rule under Spain and then Mexico was harsh, Madley notes that California Indians were eventually granted some status as second-class citizens. They also provided a much-needed labor force for the ranchers, farmers and vintners who’d taken over much of their fertile homeland by the 1830s and 1840s.

Although Mexico had abolished slavery, conditions for many Indians remained abysmal, as in this visitor’s description of feeding time at Sutter’s Mill in 1845: “Sutter keeps from 600 to 800 Indians in a state of complete slavery, and … I had the mortification of seeing them dine: 10 or 15 troughs, 3 or 4 feet long were brought out of the cook room, and seated in the broiling sun, all the laborers great and small, ran to the troughs like so many pigs, and fed themselves, with their hands, as long as the troughs contained even a moisture.”

Henry B. Brown, “On the Sacramento near Shasta Head of Great Sacramento Plain,” April 1852,

As extreme as that was, things were about to get exponentially worse, beginning with the arrival of U.S. Army Capt. John C. Fremont and an expedition of “60 buckskin-clad white men on horseback” armed with Hawkens rifles, two pistols each, sabers and butcher knives in northern California in the spring of 1946.

At Peter Lassen’s ranch, settlers told Fremont that 1000 Indians were preparing to attack settlements in the area, camped on the Sacramento River near what’s now the city of Redding. Fremont and his men, accompanied by nine Delaware Indians, two California Indians and five settlers, went in search of the encampment, and came upon it late one April afternoon, staked out next to a bend in the river, surrounded on three sides by water.

If the California Indians in Fremont’s party had been brought along for translation purposes, there would be no need for parlay on this day. In what would turn out to be a pattern repeated hundreds of times over the next 27 years, his men encircled the camp at a safe distance, out of range of the Indians, who were armed only with bows and arrows. First, they began picking off Indians with small arms fire; they then switched to rifles as they tightened the noose but remained out of range. After most of the warriors, who were outnumbered by women and children on that day, were picked off, Fremont’s men, following orders, moved into close quarters “combat,” using their pistols, sabers and knives to kill anything that moved.

The results are explained by an eyewitness account from one of Fremont’s men who claimed to not have participated in the massacre, which he blamed on over-rambunctious settlers: “The settlers charged into the village taking the warriors by surprise and then commenced a scene of slaughter which is unequaled in the West. The bucks, squaws and papooses were shot down like sheep and those men never stopped as long as they could find one alive.”

Indians who tried to escape by land on foot were chased down and killed by white men on horseback armed with guns, sabers and tomahawks. Indians who tried to swim for it were gun-downed by the hundreds and floated downstream. Nowadays, this is known as “executionary noncombatant killing.” It’s most definitely a war crime, even by 19th century standards.

Demonstrating the one-sidedness of the massacres to come, no one in Fremont’s raiding party was killed or injured. The idea was to teach the Indians a lesson: Don’t mess with the white man. Madley calls this “pedagogic killing.”

Citing multiple eyewitnesses to the massacre who left written records, including Fremont’s guide Kit Carson, Madley speculates there may have been more than 1000 California Indians killed in the Sacramento River Massacre, most likely from the Wintu tribe, who were probably gathered for the annual spring salmon run, not to make war on settlers. It may be “one of the largest but least-known massacres in US history,” according to Madley.

The 1846 Sacramento River Massacre set the tone for United States-California-Indian relations just as the U.S. defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American War and gold was discovered at the aforementioned Sutter’s Mill in 1948, expediting California’s statehood.

Perhaps the most frustrating fact pointed out by Madley’s exhaustively researched book is that some white people, Anglo-Americans who made the journey west seeking fortune, immediately grasped that California’s Indians were being treated unfairly. Such sympathizers fell one vote shy of granting California Indian adult males the right to vote in the state constitution, adopted in 1850 when California officially entered the union.

“This single vote excluded most Indians from the political process,” Madley writes. “Had it gone differently, enfranchised Indians might have been able to stop their mass murder.”

California Indians outnumbered colonists 150,000 to 15,000, ten-to-one, before the gold rush, which like a magnet attracted 80,000 new immigrants to the state by 1850.

Any legal rights California Indians enjoyed under Mexican rule were stripped away, Madley notes. Existing Anglo-American farm and ranch owners treated the Indians in their employ as disposable slaves. They shifted from working Indians to death in the fields to working them to death in the southern, central and northern mines.

Exemplars of this were Big Valley Ranch owners Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone, “reportedly the first Anglo-American colonists in the Clear Lake region.” They constructed a fence to keep the Pomo and Wappo Indians they had “inherited” with their property, as was the custom under Mexican rule, imprisoned on the ranch. Any Indian caught outside the fence after dark was severely tortured.

According to extant historical sources, some of whom were shocked and disgusted by Stone and Kelsey’s treatment of the Indians, the laborers were fed meager rations and literally worked to death, in the fields and in the mines. Kelsey and Stone reportedly raped young Indian girls with abandon, tortured the parents if they objected, and occasionally shot and killed Indians for no reason.

As many as 100 Indians had died in Stone and Kelsey’s employ before the Indians struck back in 1849. After losing a horse they borrowed from Kelsey to hunt deer, the starved Indians killed Kelsey and Stone rather than be killed by them for losing the horse.

The Indians fled, and when news of the Stone and Kelsey’s killings reached Sonoma, 25 members of the U.S. 1st Dragoons went in pursuit on horseback, killing any Indians they encountered along the way. The Dragoons murdered as many as 35 Wappo Indians in cold blood near Calistoga and torched their village and food stores. They had nothing to do with killing Stone and Kelsey.

“The killing of a non-Indian by an Indian was increasingly a pretext for the mass murder of any California Indians in the vicinity, regardless of their age, gender, identity, location or tribal affiliation,” Madley writes.

The Dragoons found a large group of Pomo Indians encamped beyond reach on an island in Clear Lake. Vowing to come back, they returned to Sonoma. A vigilante militia featuring two of Kelsey’s brothers then preceded to kill as many Indians as they could find in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, burning villages to the ground.

Eight vigilantes were charged for their crimes by California’s new Secretary of State but were released on bail and never tried.

Edward S. Curtis, “In the Tule Swamp—Upper Lake Pomo,” photograph, 1924.

As California’s constitution was being hammered out in 1850, the U.S. Army perfected the art of pedagogic killing at Clear Lake in what’s now known as the Bloody Island Massacre. With the aid of the Dragoons, an infantry unit and an artillery unit, two long boats were hauled overland to Clear Lake, where hundreds of Pomo were encamped on the island.

As in the Sacramento Valley Massacre, there would be no negotiation with the surrounded Indians. The heavily armed soldiers faced little resistance as they landed on the island. A report from the Daily Alta California, the state’s largest newspaper at the time, described the massacre:

“They … poured in a destructive fire indiscriminately upon men, women and children. ‘They fell,’ says our informant, like grass before the sweep of the scythe.’ Little or no resistance was encountered, and the work of butchery was of short duration. The shrieks of the slaughtered victims dies away, the roar of muskets … ceased and stretched lifeless upon the sod of their native valley were the bleeding bodies of these Indians—[n]or age was spared, it was the order of extermination fearfully obeyed.’ ”

The Army denied the extermination order and typically played down the number of Indians massacred at Clear Lake. Consulting the available historical sources, including Indian accounts, Madley calculates there were as few as 60 deaths but likely many more. Up to 800 Pomo men, women and children may have been killed on the island or in the attempt to swim to safety, shot by soldiers waiting on the bank and wading through the tule rushes. No soldiers were killed.

As California gold began flowing into the U.S. treasury, Madley writes, the state’s Indian killing machine began taking shape. Adding to the U.S. Army soldiers and vigilante groups that were already annihilating Indians, the state began raising its own militias, financed with bonds and assurances of remuneration from the federal government.

Meanwhile, legislators passed a series of laws that stripped all so-called wild Indians of the right to live free as they had for centuries. They also made it possible for whites to kill any Indian with virtual impunity.

Once set in motion, the killing machine relentlessly ground California Indians in its gears, murdering one or two Indians here, a dozen or several score Indians there, up and down the state, for more than two decades.

In larger massacres, the tactics employed were refined but remained the same: Armed with superior firepower provided by the U.S. government, the killers surrounded the Indians just around daybreak, preferably after they’d gathered for a celebration with lots of women and children in attendance, and start shooting. They then moved in to kill survivors with pistols, knives and tomahawks. They shot anyone who tried to escape and burned the village. The invaders were rarely injured and even less frequently killed.

Captured Indians were lured to federal reservations with unratified treaties, only to have the feds renege on promises to feed, clothe and protect them from white violence, an event that happened numerous times, as Madley documents.

Indian parents were often coerced into giving up their children, who were then sold to be house servants in what amounted to a slave market. Sometimes Indian parents were killed outright for their children. Permission granted.

Madley pursues the perpetrators of these crimes through the decades with the same relentlessness with which they set out to exterminate and exploit Indians, ticking off violations to the U.N. Genocide Convention along the way.

His book represents the first attempt to catalog all the atrocities committed against California Indians during the period of early statehood. At times it’s a bloody horror show that’s difficult to keep reading, as with this witness’s description of a local militia returning to Weaverville after a massacre in 1852:

“When they entered Weaverville with one hundred and forty-seven or one hundred and forty-nine scalps hanging to their girdles, you can well imagine the wild excitement and joy at the extermination of this tribe. Indian scalps were nailed to many doorposts for quite a while.”

The white settlers of Red Bluff, Shasta and other northern California settlements offered $5 bounties for each Indian scalp at various times; Madley describes a blanket for sale that was lined with scalps. With few exceptions, most of California’s recently arrived white settlers either supported Indian extermination or considered their extinction inevitable with the march of progress.

That prophecy was almost fulfilled. Madley ends his examination with the 1872-73 Modoc War in northeastern California, “during which a handful of Modocs held off the US Army, California volunteers and Oregon militiamen for more than six months.” The Modocs were excellent rifle marksmen and one of the few tribes that fought back successfully against white soldiers, militiamen and vigilantes. Eventually they surrendered and four Modoc leaders were hanged and beheaded. The heads were sent back to Washington. D.C.; surviving Modocs were removed to a reservation in Oklahoma.

Public opinion was beginning to turn against California’s Indian extermination policies, but that’s not why Madley marks the end of California’s Indian catastrophe at 1873. By that time, there were very few large groups of Indians left. They’d run out of Indians to kill.

“State and federal policies, in combination with vigilante violence played major roles in the near-annihilation of California Indians during the first twenty-seven years of US rule,” Madley writes. “From 1846 to 1873, colonization policies, abductions, diseases, homicides, executions, battles, massacres, institutionalized neglect on federal reservations, and the willful destruction of indigenous villages and their food stores seem to have reduced California Indian numbers by at least 80 percent, from perhaps 150,000 to some 30,000. In less than three decades newcomers—with the support of both the state and federal governments—nearly exterminated California’s Indians.”

There are few silver linings in “An American Genocide.” The evidence gathered by Madley makes a convincing argument that the near-extermination of California’s Indians meets all the U.N.’s requirements for genocide. We can’t change the past, we can only learn from it, and Madley’s book is a great but decidedly gruesome place to start.

However, there is one bright spot here in the present. Since the legalization of Indian gaming in 1988, California’s Indian population has made a comeback. Today, there are 150,000 California Indians spread across the state, the same number that existed 170 years ago, when whites began arriving for the gold rush.

Perhaps we can treat them a little more fairly during the next 170 years.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas. He can be emailed at RVScheide@anewscafe.com.
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56 Responses

  1. Avatar Kathy says:

    Thank you for telling this story. I learned the truth after buying the “When the “Great Spirit Died” The Destruction of the California Indians 1850 -1860 , 2003 by William Secrest. Found it at The Whiskeytown Lake store. This book changed me.
    Now several others have been since published including the one you shared.
    Again…thank you.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      You’re welcome, and thanks for recommending this other source.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Exceptional article, on a subject that deserves far more attention than it has ever received.

        When I was in school in the 40’s and early 50’s Native Americans were referred to in my official history texbooks as “savages”. Of course there were no Native American students in my school, since they had all been forced into brutal “Indian schools” in an effort by the U.S. government to destroy their culture.

        My best friend of many years was a woman of Cherokee descent who was raised on the reservation until she was 7. At that young age she was removed from her family and placed in one of those schools, where she was beaten so severely and so often that she went through the rest of her life cripppled. Many childen died – from abuse, malnutrition, exposure, disease, and just plain over-work.

        Thank you for shining a light on this important subject R.V. May we never forget.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          Thanks Patrecia. Unfortunately, while California’s Indian killing machine may have slowed down in 1873, it didn’t stop, even as so called civilization invented new ways to torture and torment Indians, such as the boarding schools, which are an absolute travesty, including forced sterilization, which of course is one of the requirements for genocide.

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    RV, very good article. Any long term Redding residents remember the Toyon housing on Shasta Dam Blvd. Housing for the dam builders that was, when it came vacant, was turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Indians moved into the houses, claiming ancestral land, which it was, and promptly lived there. The local authorities, not sure who, shut off water and power to Toyon.
    I posted a Dottie Smith historical article on my Facebook about it.
    Mark Keluche, a good friend from Red Bluff, led the Red Bluff Little League Allstars to second place in the 1973 Little League World Series. Sports Illustrated described him as a “roly poly Indian pitcher”.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Geez, Bruce. I wonder if Sports Illustrated would do that today?

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        RV, that was a special team at a special time. Taiwan always won the LLWS beating top teams from all over the US. What made Red Bluff so special was they were not from some powerhouse area of the US but the backwoods of northern California. Gale Gilbert went on to become the only NFL quarterback to play in five straight Super Bowls, all loses. The Sports Illustrated article was more about a David team taking on Goliath. Most of those players stayed in northern California to raise families, I am still in touch with a few on Facebook.

        • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

          You know, I think I actually watched this game on TV. I lived in SF at the time, but I remember the team that almost beat Taiwan.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:


      The Native American residents were actually PAYING for the utilities that were shut off. They gave the money to the land agent, who managed to avoid making the payment until a few hours after the deadline. And as I recall, when the water department finally went to turn the water back on they broke the valve, so the tribe would continue to go without water.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Patrecia, and do you recall, it was always on the news, how when the fire department went to put out fires in Toyon they had to call in the sheriff’s department for protection. A friend of mine that worked at Grand Auto said those attacking the police/fire were customers of his.

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:


          I’m afraid I’m not following you. Who attacked fire fighters, and why?

          • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

            Patrecia, it was broadcast on the news. The residents attacked the fire fighters. In fact the firefighters would not go into Toyon until the SO showed up. Why? I don’t know. I did not know any of the residents, my friend knew them as customers. I did know some of the SO and firefighters so I go by what was on the news and their feedback.
            Either way the Indians did get screwed and probably took out their frustrations on the whites invading their area, my opinion.
            If you knew the residents then any feedback would be appreciated.

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        There was a tremendous amount of violence on the Colville Reservation in eastern Washington near where I lived in the 1970s. My girlfriend’s brother was in prison at the time for shooting at the county sheriffs. Me and this other white dude, who was like one of the baddest ass guys in high school, dated sisters and we’d often be the only two white guys on the rez. Guys would always ask you to fight, just for sport. I always said no! I learned to drink on the reservation–they told me if I passed out, they’d cut my hair, which was really long at the time. They called me “Bob-up-and-kiss-my-ass.”

  3. Avatar Mimi Moseley says:

    RV, thank you so much for this excellent article. It is so well researched and presented here. I support The Tribe. Jack Potter would be a great one to meet with as he is the Chairman of the Tribe. Tracey Edwards is the CEO of Redding Rancheria.
    I support RR’s efforts for the new casino and I am appalled at some of the comments I have heard like “They have enough space already.” OMG! They have 26.2 acres. That’s it! The new casino will be a nice entrance into our city and they will employ approx 1300 people. Some are concerned that they do not pay taxes. Well that is true, however, they pay a LOT of various fees for SO many things. Jack or Tracey could explain this better than I.
    Thank you again for such a well written article!

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I’m not a big fan of the new casino proposal, but I’ve never been a fan of having *any* development along the river between Redding and Anderson. Having lived in the Sacramento area, I’ve seen once-distinct cities merge into megalopolises—it isn’t pretty. I like the relatively open space between the local cities, and the window into Redding created bu the pastureland where the casino would go.

      Sacramento did have the good sense to preserve most of the former floodplain of the American River as open space, from Lake Natomas in Folsom all the way to Discovery Park, where it meets the Sacramento River. I wish I could say that opposition to the casino project was grounded in such a noble goal, but I’ve lived here too long to believe that.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Thank you Mimi! I think one reason some folks are upset about the Redding Rancheria’s proposed casino is that the present facility is tucked away, out of sight, where people passing through don’t see it. The proposed Strawberry Fields facility, no matter what size it turns out to be, will be in plain sight, and that bothers people who are philosophically opposed to gaming.

      Personally, I’m not keen on gaming, for all the usual reasons, but working as a journalist in Reno during the nineties, I came to understand that it’s entertainment, cheap thrills as long as you limit how much you’re gonna gamble. The casinos tell you up front you’re gonna give them a dollar and they’re gonna give you 90 cents back. I never spend more than $20 at a go. One night I won $5000 playing video poker in Reno, which means I’m up $4000 lifetime.

      As a journalist in California, I covered the Indian casinos in the Sacramento Area when they first started popping up in the early 1990s. Cache Creek Casino in the Capay Valley–just over the hill from the Bloody Island Massacre–is an awesome facility, and the Indians of the Rumsey Racheria have been economically uplifted. Likewise, Win-River is pretty cool now too, it’s like a little gem tucked away where it is now.

      From my point of view, I think the Redding Rancheria is sitting pretty solid, despite the rather odd unanimous votes condemning the project by the city council and the board of supervisors. I think people freaked out because the Rancheria went big with their plans–which was a good play. The BIA is going to examine four possible projects, and I guarantee one of them will not be selected: the one without the casino.

      I’m seeing a scaled down version, a casino, a 150 room hotel, a moderate number of cool semi high-end retail stores for gamblers to spend their winnings that only work in a casino and not down at the mall, and because it’s scaled back, plenty of open space left to satisfy the enviros. There’s no doubt in my mind that a super cool casino right on I-5 will make major bank, which the tribe shares with the rest of us through federal and state revenue sharing programs. As everybody knows, the Redding Rancheria are solid members of the community,

      After writing this book review it almost feels strange to say I think the law is on the side of the Rancheria in this case. Let’s see what happens.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      I’m not anti casino, but I wish the Rancheria would diversify. They are in an unique position to thumb their noses at California regulators and operate a wide range of businesses with much lower costs than competition operating outside tribal land…

      Think about it: they don’t need to collect CA sales tax, don’t need to pay CA minimum wage, nor CA workers comp, nor are they subject to California’s civil liability laws… Not only does that make them an ideal candidate for a travel center (gas for $0.50-$1.00/gal less than the competition), it also makes them ideal for medical clinics & hospitals (doctors would be paying $10,000/year less for malpractice insurance, hospitals & clinics would save hundreds of thousands if not millions). They could also cut & harvest timber at rates comparable to Canada. And they could be a tax-free haven for retail sales.

      There is so much potential if they can look beyond the one arm bandit revenue model…

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        They’re trying—the Rancheria has an economic development corporation. The tribe owns the Hilton Garden Inn off of I-5 and Bechelli Lane, and the Win River Mini Mart/Gas Station on Bechelli nearly Hwy 273. It also owns several healthcare facilities, though it’s not clear to me that any those are for-profit enterprises.

        I may not have this exactly right, but my understanding is that for tribal enterprises to be free of California regulations and such, the property ownership has to be transferred and held in trust by the BIA. If the tribe simply purchases property and develops it, it’s subject to state and local laws, taxes, etc.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          My understanding is similar: the land must be converted to tribal land to be free of California (something they haven’t done with the gss station or Hilton – but they are in the process of with the new casino).

          Thinking about it more, my #1 priority would be housing: New homes for under $200k with half-price property tax!

  4. Avatar George says:

    It is sad, and very telling, that in this world, human behavior change often does not come from the heart but has to be legislated. That is an indictment of our race.

    Ethnocentrism and hate are obviously present in the history of every nation. This is the easiest way for people to justify horrific behavior. Some view this as the survival of the fittest and therefore create in their psyches a sick justification for their actions.

    It is not idealistic to move away from such behavior. We simply have to want to.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I only mentioned one frustrating example, the failure by 1 vote to grant Indian males suffrage in 1850 (of course, women, blacks, Asians, etc. were also excluded) but there were several times in the book where California could have gone the other way. The Hoopa Valley Reservation is one of the examples. Unfortunately, such examples are all too few.

  5. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    And then the City of Redding Mayor presents a proclamation of sorrow and forgivness to local Native leaders, for past grievances, at the last State of the City of Redding at the Civic Auditorium; while speaking out of the other side of her mouth condeming the Redding Rancheria’s re-location of the casino to their tribal owned land on I-5. What is going on here ?
    I predict the City will all of a sudden forget how adamant they were in opposing the casino re-location and praise the build-up of the New Casino.

  6. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    When I was in high school, our advanced biology teacher read us a first-hand account of one of the California Indian massacres, written by a participant. This must have been a later-date slaughter—the writer of the diary used a repeating rifle that he greatly admired for its efficiency. But what really stuck was his description of killing babies and toddlers. He was full of sincere self-admiration for having the decency and compassion to use a small-caliber pistol on the youngest Indians. He described the neat little holes left by the smaller slugs.

    I’m a biologist, but I remember that account as vividly as I remember any of the biology I was taught in that class.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Killing babies is the worst. Cormac McCarthy uses it as a meme in his novels. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, there’s a baby on a stick.

  7. Tom O'Mara Tom O'Mara says:

    The book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” details many of the same despicable actions on a national basis across this country.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      I read a short history of Wounded Knee the other day, and the soldiers used the exact same tactics that were developed in California to massacre hundreds there. As Madley points out, if only Indian males had been enfranchised, it would have been a much different story.

      • Avatar Matthew Meyer says:

        As an anthropologist specializing in the Brazilian Amazon, I can tell you that there is stunning similarity in the tactics used to murder Indians throughout the Americas. The description of encirclement and cowardly slaughter might have been taken verbatim from accounts of slaughters in Acre state and other places.

  8. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    If you have ever wondered why most fifth generation white people are so blatantly prejudiced and unkind in this valley… you now have your answer +!+

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Jist, I hear you. Lots of folks say they’re fourth generation. But fifth, sixth generation, chances are high an Indian killer in one of your ancestors. Still, I firmly believe it’s not in the DNA.

  9. Avatar Robert V. Scheide SR. says:

    The massacres in your story grow in their horror when listed together. It is painful to have to acknowledge that it is your race doing the deeds. So one might ask why in the hell are we doing the same thing today, the only difference is the skin color of those we are out to exterminate, now we look for brown, yellow just no white. Could our current racial divide end up destroying all us?

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      The book truly is a compendium of horrors Dad. Remember the big deal everybody in American Falls made over “Massacre Rocks”? Poor little wagon train got ambushed by Indians. I wonder what the real story is?

  10. Avatar James Montgomery says:

    Genocide it was. A sad story, pretty well known.
    There is, of course, a bit more to the story. To large degree, “they” became “us.” There are few of us descended from pioneers who are not part Indian, ourselves. Assimilation is less dramatic, but is a part of the story. It works the other way, too, racially. Most of my Indian friends- I have quite a few- are part white. We don’t care; we are friends.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      James, it’s a well known story and it’s not. Of course there’s been assimilation, I mentioned it in my first paragraph. The most ridiculous claim that Anglo-Americans made about California Indians in the 1850s was that they were “racially inferior.” In fact, the Spanish quickly discovered that Indians who grew up with the technology brought by the Old World had no problem mastering it in one, two generations. It took 150 years, and lots of intermixing, to give Indians some rights under Mexican rule. As harsh as Spanish and Mexican rule was, California under the stars and stripes was far more destructive, and most people never think about all the innocent blood that’s been spilled when the national anthem plays.

  11. R.V., thank you for this piece of writing; so painful to read; so important to share so we never forget this despicable part of our history that makes me, as a white person, feel ashamed.

    A short drive west of Redding there’s a place in the Wildwood/Hayfork area that was the site of the 1852 Bridge Gulch massacre, also known as the Hayfork massacre or Natural Bridge massacre. More than 150 Wintu people were killed by about 70 American men led by the Trinity County sheriff.

    There’s information there now that tells of the massacre, which I think varies in the account offered here on the Wikipedia link, because, if memory serves, some alleged stolen Lewiston horses were the justification of the massacre – not the death of a white man. Maybe it was both. Either way, the massacre was upon innocent Wintu men, women and children camping at Natural Bridge, slaughtered unarmed at sunrise.


    I’ve been to Natural Bridge a few times, and it truly feels like a sacred, sad place.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Doni, we were having a family reunion at the Natural Bridge because there was a campground with bathrooms and nobody ever went there. On this particular day the place had a constant stream of traffic coming to visit. Finally we asked somebody why they were they and they replied that Doni had written an article about the Natural Bridge.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      Doni, in Madley’s book, a reoccurring cycle of violence formed here in the “Northern Mines” area, which is what this was really all about, the gold. As gold rushers increasingly encroached on Indian land, killing all the wild game, putting up fences, cutting of the Indian food supply, the Indians naturally started eating the horses and cattle that had taken their place, because they were starving to death. In retaliation, Anglo Americans, miners, militiamen, vigilantes, US Army soldiers often killed entire villages for the theft of a few livestock. That’s why we’re haunted, in my opinion. Someone needs to get the ghosts out of here.

  12. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    My previous message disappeared into the ether, apparently. But another book along these lines is “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.”

  13. Avatar Sjunn Morillo if you says:

    As long as there is a country of the United States of America, there will always be an American Indian spirit around to stay.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      There’s no question about that even if the U.S. ceased to exist. With the way things are going with the climate, we’d all be better off if we started living like California Indians circa 1400.

  14. Avatar Marc Dadigan says:

    Thanks for writing this, RV. It’s important to acknowledge the Hupa scholar Jack Norton first made the case that what occurred in California was genocide in 1979 with his book “Genocide in Northernwestern California” https://www.amazon.com/Genocide-northwestern-California-worlds-cried/dp/B0006CYZSK

    And Rafael Lemkin who coined the term genocide was reportedly writing about Native American genocide prior to his death.

    And there is lots of scholarship that has documented how Hitler’s atrocities were in fact modeled on America’s treatment of Indigenous people. There were Nazi philosophers who had the regular refrain that they had to “conquer the slavs as the Americans conquered the Redskins”.

    • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

      You bring up some excellent points Marc! One of the cool things about “An American Genocide” is that at least with the Kindle version, there’s an enormous Appendix featuring all of the sources Madley used in the book. I’m fairly certain he quotes Norton and many other historians who’ve worked to uncover the truth.

      It wouldn’t be surprising if Lemkin was writing about the American Indian genocide, since he was so familiar with Hitler’s thinking, which was in part influenced by the military tactics and modern weaponry used in the attempt to exterminate the American Indian. Hitler was a fan of Western pulp fiction of the day, and read it until the day he killed himself.

  15. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Local historian Dottie Smith’s “History of the Indians of Shasta County” includes so much documentation and newspaper accounts of what was happening in Shasta County during this era. Knowledge of this recent, heartbreaking history can be overwhelming. We can’t change history, but there are things that can be done to alter the effects of that history, and there are questions that could be addressed.
    How can this history be included in California’s elementary and high school history ccurriculum in an approriate way? This will require examining the mind set that made people think it was acceptable to do something they would never have thought of doing back in Boston.
    Native American’s were referred to as “savages” and as uncivilized primatives.
    An important read for me was “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. Nothing existed in Northern California that even resembled the resources that allowed people in Europe and Asia to start living together in communities that farmed crops, planted orchards and raised live stock. (which gave some community members time to write poetry, design interesting clothing and furniture people could sit on when they listened to music other members had composed.) There were no fruit trees in California before the Spaniards arrived. There were no domesticatable animals like chickens, pigs, cows or horses. (Many of the worst diseases Eurpopeans brought with them had been aquired from living in close proximity to those animals.). It might be that the history young people learn will be more about the dynamics of people living and surviving successfully in the environment and commumity and time in which they were born, than it will be about the size of the cathedral built or the war won.

    Why and how did this happen, and how or when could it happen again?

  16. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    The Redding Racheria benefits and serves some, but not all of the Wintu, Yana and Pit River families in this area. Some tribes have no federal recognition still. I mention this because some people assume that the Redding Racheria represents all of the Native Americans in this community and area.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Joanne — There is also the nasty business of tribal leaders disenfranchising tribe members in petty power struggles, or sometimes simply so that there are fewer straws in the casino revenue milkshake.

      To the best of my knowledge, disenfranchised tribal members have zero legal recourse. I can only imagine to pain of being entirely stripped of your identity.

      • Avatar James Montgomery says:

        Yes. Ask the Foreman family about that.

      • Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

        I didn’t want to mention this sad history, but it is one reason I mentioned that the Redding Rancheria represents only a part of the Native Americans in this area.

  17. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    One thing that is being pushed across the nation is to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus never set foot in America. He was sailing under the Spanish flag and claimed the New World for Spain. In fact the first Old World people were the Vikings. Greenland was named such to seem inviting to frozen northern Europeans.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Not to quibble, but the first Old World people to reach the New World were not the Vikings, but the Siberians. Native Americans are related to east and central Asian Siberians—genetically, and by language affiliation.

      There has been speculation that Polynesians may have been the first to reach the New World. That was based on the fact that Polynesians inhabited Rapa Nui (Easter Island) about 2,000 miles from Chile, the presence of sweet potatoes (originating in the Andes) in Polynesia long before European contact, the possible hybridization of Polynesian and South American chickens, and the presence of South American genes in Rapa Nui descendants. Each of these lines of evidence has been dismissed upon further study.

  18. Avatar Larry Winter says:

    Thanks RV for reminding us of the ugly truths and atrocities that are so important to our local history and how the west was won.

    The Writing Humboldt History Project created an important book for the history of Humboldt and surrounding areas that detail stories from both the white and the indigenous peoples that included the Tolowa, Yurok, Karuk, Konomihu, New River Shasta(2 sub-groups), Hupa, Tsnungwe, Chimariko, Wintu, Whilkut (3 sub-groups), Mad River Whilkut, Wiyot (3 sub-groups), Bear River, Mattole (2 sub-groups), Shelter Cove Sinkyone (6 sub-groups), Lolahnkok Sinkyone (6 sub-groups), Eel River Wailaki (9 sub-groups), Lassik, and Nongatl (15 sub-groups).

    Two Peoples, One Place a Humboldt History, Volume One
    Ray Raphael and Freeman House


  19. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    I’m not down wit’ tHe Clowns @ tHe COR Palace. . . LET’S GAMBLE +!+

  20. Avatar Tim says:

    Speaking of genocide, California had an eugenics law on the books from 1909-1979 that allowed for the forced sterilization of those in the state’s care. Minorities, including natives, were disproportionately affected.

    Despite the repeal of the law in 1979, California has forcibly sterilized inmates as recently as 2014.

  21. Avatar Randy says:

    The atrocities committed against the Native American people were carried by people believing they were, “Christians” and “Patriots” carrying out “the work of God” and still today the flag and cross are still being hijacked and used by criminal elements as tools of distraction to hide and justify criminal, immoral deeds.

  22. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Excellent work on this article R.V. We have a common theme going as White People. The same arguments that the white nationalists use now were used back then. The argument of,as Mitt Romney’s wife so eloquently said once, “Those People”. The white man labeled them as “Savages” long ago similar to Hitlers propaganda.

    I am happy they are going to build the Casino. There is a lot of sniveling about traffic and this and that but let us keep in mind what they have done for the Community. The tribe provides employment and has give a lot to various organizations and is a MUCH better Steward of the Land and Water. Native Americans have much more Respect for Nature in general than most White Men.

    It was Elder Chief Oren Lyons that many years ago said in his address to the United Nations said…..”White man needs to change what he is going! Have you seen the increase in Fires? Have you seen the increase in Floods? Have you seen areas that don’t need water get flooded more? Have you seen the areas that need the water not get it??? It’s called Value Change for Survival!”

    Tim is correct they had to wait 10+ years for the Strawberry Field land to become Tribal Land.

    I would like to see them work with Cal Trans and Add a Southbound on ramp to I-5 to alleviate half the traffic coming out of there but I SUPPORT THE TRIBE.