Sunday, January 15, 2017

The California Gold Rush Effect on Native American Populations

California Gold and the Native Americans

The report of the rich gold "diggin's" on the waters of the Tuolumne, Merced, Mariposa, Chowchilla, and Fresno Rivers, soon spread, and miners by thousands came and took possession of the whole country, paying no regard to the natural rights or wishes of the Indians.

Some of the Indian chiefs made the proposition that if the miners would give them some of the gold which they found in their part of the country, they might stay and work. This offer was not listened to by the miners, and a large majority of the white invaders treated the natives as though they had no rights whatever to be respected. In some instances, where Indians had found and were working good mining claims, they were forcibly driven away by white miners, who took possession of their claims and worked them.

Moreover, the Indians saw that their main sources of food supply were being rapidly destroyed. The oak trees, which produced the acorns—one of their staple articles of food,—were being cut down and burned by miners and others in clearing up land for cultivation, and the deer and other food game were being rapidly killed off or driven from the locality.

In the "early days," before California was admitted as a free State into the Union, it was reported, and was probably true, that some of the immigrants from the slave-holding States took Indians and made slaves of them in working their mining claims. It was no uncommon event for the sanctity of their homes and families to be invaded by some of the "baser sort," and young women taken, willing or not, for servants and wives.


In retaliation, and as some compensation for these many grievous outrages upon their natural inalienable rights of domain and property, and their native customs, the Indians stole horses and mules from the white settlers, and killed them for food for their families, who, in many instances, were in a condition of starvation.