A thing explained…?

Hopefuls on their way to California

Hopefuls on their way to California

Maybe, just maybe, there is some explanation for what happened here.

My daughter came to visit yesterday and I told her about Ben Madley’s paper—his discovery of certain patterns in any invasion.

1)      The indigenous people are surprised and unprepared for invaders and fail to realize they are a threat

2)      The native people start responding , resisting and retaliating to – the incursion and abuses suffered at the hands of the invaders

3)      The invaders see the native response as a threat to life, limb and successful settlement, and eventually determine that isolation or extermination is the only answer .  Of course many believed the savages couldn’t be trusted and wouldn’t stay put on the reservations, so extermination seemed to be the only choice.

I am starting to wonder if part of the reason things were so violent here is that though the natives in this area started at phase one, the invaders came in with phase three attitudes. Many emigrants grew up in areas where all three phases had occurred and crossed country where they were yet happening.  Some lost family to Indians and many more lived in mortal fear they might.   Many of the settlers that arrived in California were  already convinced that  Natives were violent, blood-thirsty, scalp stealing savages  that needed killing before they killed you. Any perceived threat was met with an extreme response because east of California, natives were a threat… not that you could blame those Natives if they experience anything like what happened here.

Of course others just equated  genocide with  natural progress.  Manifest destiny and all that.

Thomas J. Henley was the superintendent of Indian affairs in 1858 and wrote the following letter to California’s state legislators in reference to the Indians under his jurisdiction.  The letter was reprinted in the local Humboldt times. 

 -Sacramento, Jan. 9, 1858 “…The California Indians, who but recently were the undisputed owners of the soil, are slow, miserable, starving mendicants.  To give way and recede before the approach of civilization seems to be their destiny.  To occupy their lands, and convert them to useful purposes is the destiny of the white race. .. As the tide of emigration has continued to roll westward, the Indian had been kept in the advance.  As our own settlements progressed, it has been our policy to send him to the “west”, until at length we have reached the western boundary of the Republic.  To the Indian there is no longer a “west.” He is surrounded and encompassed by a superior race, to whom he yields an unconditional surrender”  Henley goes on to advocate for a functioning reservation system for the Indians.    [Humboldt Times, August , 1858]  

‘Course the kidnappings, rapes and other abuses that happened regularly to the Natives on these reservations made this solution less than ideal. As did the appropriation of lands, displacement of native people and a concentration camp- type set up that included forced labor, disease and starvation.   But, you know, whatever.

My point was that many saw the decline of the native people, even the genocide, as part of the  natural progression  of a growing nation and grew up steeped ( I checked my thesaurus after typing  that word—it does mean immersed)  in that philosophy and the belief that Indians were savages.   You’re born in a Mormon family, chances are better than even that you’ll be Mormon.  Same when your parents are physically active or bigots.  Property isn’t the only thing we inherit.

Neither of my theories is intended to excuse the atrocities that occurred here.  Not in any way.  But Ernie B. is wise in his urging to understand the “why” behind the actions.   Otherwise, what are we really learning?


5 Responses to A thing explained…?

  1. olmanriver says:

    One of the greatest rationalizations for the genocide that I have found in print is from this 1880 Mendocino History:
    “But the Indian is vanishing from the face of the earth surely and not so very slowly. It was estimated in 1877, that there were less than ten thousand left in the entire state of California, distributed as follows: On the reservation at Hoopa valley, five hundred and eighty; Round Valley reservation, nine hundred and fifty-two; Tule River reservation, twelve hundred; and not on any reservation, six thousand five hundred. Making a total of nine thousand two hundred and thirty-two. And yet, it is in the memory of every old pioneer when there were at least that many living on the territory covered now by any one county in the State. It is very strange, and yet it seems a matter of destiny, and just as much so as it was that the nations of the land of Canaan should disappear before the advance of the chosen people of God into their country. Many people are inclined to put on a sentimental air and charge that the white man has been the cause of all this decimation among their ranks. Such, however, does not seem to be the case. The truth is, that they had served their purpose in the great economy of God, and the fullness of time for their disappearance from the earth has come, and they are going to go . Of course, looking at it from this standpoint does not give the white man leave or license to help rid the country of them. Far from it; but on the other hand, the great law of Christian (by which word is meant Christ-like) charity comes in, and demands that they should receive just and honorable usage at the hands of those who come into contact with them.”

    • lynette77 says:

      When I hear that Iraqi civilians have died during our “war” I feel sad, but deep down I have to admit it doesn’t touch me, not really. Not the way the death of another should. It is too far removed. For better or worse, and worse, I think, it is too abstract. I don’t truly understand that people are dying. And that, even worse, many are fearful and suffering, and then dying.
      That distance is a luxury for me, as I think it was for Americans in the 1800s. You can understand something intellectually (oh Iraqis died today, oh, it is the fate of the Indians to disappear…) without really getting it. Or, if I’m understanding ‘River’s quote correctly, you can rationalize it as God’s will.

      In the movie Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character at one point asks, quoted (ish), “I wonder sometimes if God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to eachother…” Of course he goes on to say God has already deserted Africa, but that is a topic for another day.

      I do wonder, sometimes, if Jesus would forgiven us for what’s been done in the name of Christianity.

  2. Kathy says:

    Untouched? Untold? The story of Lucy has always touche me deeply because it is untold. It is my belief we are never untouched by the suffering of another. Could it be true that the worst thing we hand down to our children it what we have not seen, that which we are taught not to see.
    The story of Lucy echos with the unheard voices of those who suffer today and the wrongs that are committed right in front of our unseeing eyes. Wages too small to live on, broken people with no place to turn, folks who chase the dollars from our forests and leave a scared empty land.
    The story of Lucy is about learning to see today.
    Write On, Lynette

    • lynette77 says:

      Hey Kathy !!!
      So glad you found me. Did you read my “why I stopped whining” post? This is it, I’m getting the info out there and folks will… think what they want, do what they want. At least its available. Are you still hosting the radio show? At least until KHUM goes away?

  3. Kathy says:

    Yes I am still one of the hosts on Through The Eyes of Women on KHSU. Questions! I get to ask questions! And you were my first guest ever for which I will be forever thankful.
    I often think of Lucy and the way she has come into your life.

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