California Indian History
    Primary Sources and Information, 1846-1879

    Did You Know?

    Did you know that during California’s Gold Rush and for decades afterwards:

    • Thousands of California Indians were killed by settlers?
    • The State of California financially supported local militias that were formed for the purpose of “defense” and engaged in killing California Indians?
    • Representatives of the United States federal government negotiated treaties with California tribes—but the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaties?
    • California Indian children were captured and taken by settlers to work as domestic servants or slaves?
    • California Indians, by law, could not testify against a white person in court?

    See, Kimberly Johnston-Dodds, Early California Laws and Policies Related to California Indians, (California Research Bureau, September 2002) .

    Purpose of this Website

    The California Indian History website makes available online, in one place, primary sources from various archival and historical collections that were authored or reported by non-Indian witnesses, and oftentimes perpetrators, who documented Euro-American violence against California Indigenous people. The scope of the website is statewide from the Gold Rush period into the second half of the 19th century. The website also provides a growing body of educational resources, allowing anyone the ability to review, evaluate, and draw their own conclusions about the history experienced by California Indigenous people. Key documents and digital images include:

    • Annotated timelines listing state and federal government documents chronologically
    • Thousands of statewide California newspaper articles
    • State and federal correspondence and reports
    • Rosters that identify thousands of men on official muster rolls of militia units or independent companies kept by the State of California Adjutant General found in the State Archives

    Who We Are and Why We Do This

    We are a voluntary group of colleagues – historians, educators, archivists, librarians, and information technology experts – united in a common purpose to:

    • bear witness to 19th century events that occurred in what is now known as California; and
    • contribute to breaking a longstanding silence surrounding these events by providing free, online access (to anyone) to digitized 19th century primary sources of documentary evidence, the originals of which are housed in miles of cardboard boxes, on microfilm, and in vaults or on shelves of publicly-owned settler repositories in California and beyond.

    We receive no remuneration, and do not seek to make a spectacle of these cataclysmic events. Our work strives to acknowledge and expose the acts, name the perpetrators, and provide access to the evidence in order to foster effective change in how the State of California acts toward Indigenous people.

    From our perspective, we believe the telling of Indigenous histories of survival, resistance, revolution, revival and re-Indigenization belongs to California Native voices. We stand in support of their efforts, and Indigenous movements underway.

    OCTOBER 2021

    Native American History is American History – Take Action to Change the Narrative.

    October 11, 2021  – U.S. Indigenous Peoples Day – A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, 2021

    Francene Blythe, Executive Director, Vision Maker Media – “Thank you to these states who have made the change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the U.S.:

    Alaska, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin”

    Celebrate Indigenous Peoples!

    For Our Future: An Advocate’s Guide to Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ Day

    California Indian Education For All: Classroom Resources

    Eleven Films & Features to Watch for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

    Indigenous Peoples’ Day – From Heyday Books – A Reading List

    World Indigenous Peoples Day – August 9, 2021

    Working to Realize Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the U.S. Native American Rights Fund, August 9, 2021.

    “Since 1995, the United Nations has designated August 9 as the annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day marks an occasion to celebrate the achievements of Indigenous Peoples and to highlight the continued work necessary to protect and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.”

    United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).

    Years later the four countries that voted against have reversed their position and now support the UN Declaration. Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”


    “The ‘Tribal Implementation Toolkit,’ produced in collaboration between the Native American Rights Fund, the University of Colorado Law School, and UCLA Law’s Tribal Legal Development Clinic, considers how tribes can support and implement the Declaration through tribal lawmaking.”

    Digital edition here

    Text version for those using screen readers or other accessibility aids here

    Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

    United Nations Secretary-General’s Statement on the IPCC Working Group 1 Report on the Physical Science Basis of the Sixth Assessment. August 9, 2021.

    “Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity.  The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable:  greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”

    Indigenous Peoples Increasingly Engaging in Climate Action,” UN Climate Change News, August 9, 2021.

    “’Indigenous peoples must be part of the solution to climate change. This is because they have the traditional knowledge of their ancestors. The important value of that knowledge simply cannot — and must not — be understated,’ said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.”

    Values of Indigenous Peoples Can Be a Key Component of Climate Resilience,” UN Climate Change News, September 6, 2019.

    “Although indigenous peoples constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, they safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, thereby playing a key role in climate protection. Indigenous peoples often have a spiritual connection to nature, which ensures that they take the protection of their habitat seriously.”

    Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Resources grounded in responsibility, reciprocity, and respect.

    Indigenous Land Trusts and Alliances located in what is currently known as California. Please consider supporting their efforts.

    Additional Links:

    Thadeus Greenson, “Dishgamu Humboldt: A groundbreaking, Wiyot-led effort to heal and rebuild while putting land back in Native hands takes root,” North Coast Journal, July 8, 2021.

    Jessica Douglas, “Students and faculty urge deeper look at land-grant legacy,” High Country News, December 22, 2020.

    Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, University of Minnesota, Beyond the Land Acknowledgement: College “LAND BACK” or Free Tuition for Native Students, August 2020.

    Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone, “Land-grab universities: Expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system,” High Country News, March 30, 2020.

    American Indians in Children’s Literature

    California Indian Education For All – “California Indian Education for All (CIEFA) is a nonprofit that exists to help teachers and schools educate children and youth about the diverse histories, cultures and contributions of California Native peoples. CIEFA’s goals are to create culturally responsive resources that improve representations and classroom climates for teaching and learning about California’s first  people.”

    News from Native California Resources

    National Congress of American Indians (2019). Becoming Visible: A Landscape Analysis of State Efforts to Provide Native American Education for All. Washington, DC. September 2019.

    Native Education for All

    Reclaiming Native Truth Project – Changing the Narrative about Native Americans

    Who Should Use This Website?

    Policy makers, students, researchers and educators will find these resources useful for documenting this important history. What happened in California deserves to be included in the knowledge of United States history shared by all Americans and taught in our schools and universities.

    How to Cite Online Content

    Please cite materials used from this website appropriately. If you have used documents such as essays, timelines, or newspaper articles in a research paper or publication, guidelines for citing them are provided here.

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