This weekend my family spent time along the Salmon River. The kids have heard a lot about the “gold country” and after swimming for a while, my younger son, who is sixteen, became very focused on trying to find gold in the sandy gravel that lined the shore. Very focused. And frustrated. This got me thinking about what it would have been like for miners coming here seeking their fortune, and not necessarily finding it.
Over time, many settlers and failed miners turned to farming and other pursuits. Humboldt County was rich in natural resources and there were many ways to prosper. Settlers believed in the area and they were as far “west” as they could go.
Except. Except the local “savages” were a threat to their prosperity. Benjamin Madley wrote a paper on the predictable pattern “settlement” follows, called Patterns of frontier genocide 1803-1910
under : Comparative Colonial Genocides about half way down the page.
I mentioned this briefly in a comment, so forgive the repeat-but it does bear repeating.
Madley found that when invaders first invade, there is a struggle over the resources of the area. The indigenous people are unprepared for, or under-estimate, their future enemies.
The second phase starts when the natives realize the invaders aren’t going away, and aren’t very nice. The settlers use the resources, women, etc. and don’t stop, even when it gets out of hand. The native people begin to resist.
The third phase happens when the invaders decide they are there to stay and the indigenous, resistant people are in the way of their prosperity. They decide the natives must be removed or exterminated for the sake of future peace.
This is a very basic (and rather rough) summary of Madley’s findings, but seem to hold true here (his original paper covers the invasions of Tasmania, Namibia and California, specifically Mendocino County).
When conditions here hit phase three, the massacre at Indian Island and many other killings and massacres, were the result. I’ll cover more about the massacre in a future post, but today it is enough to say that Lucy was on the Island with little Carrie and Annie at the time of the massacre. She hid with them and survived, only to be brutally murdered two years later.
This, this moment, when I typed that last sentence, is when I get really sad and wonder what good can come of this terrible story. Yet it needs to be told. And even more of the stories from that time need to be told. It is history and it is current. Prejudice and pain linger like a bad bruise and affect the here and now. Anti-Indian Scum mentioned in my first post proves it.