Boy, when I read that title, it seems harsh, but why shouldn’t I call it as it was… The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians was established in California in 1850, and among other provisions it allowed for the legal indenture of Native Americans under many circumstances.
Indenture is a pretty word for slavery. In the case of children, the indenture granted the petitioner a certificate, “authorizing him or her to have the care, custody, control, and earnings of such minor, until he or she obtain the age of majority. Every male Indian shall be deemed to have attained his majority at eighteen, and the female at fifteen years.”
The ages were extended under many circumstances and adults were often indentured in a similar manner.
Because Indian children considered “quite docile and very good servants, learning to work and to speak English very readily,” they were coveted by families seeking cheap and reliable labor and people would pay to have them [Humboldt times, Oct 5, 1861] .
Human trafficking in Indian children became a popular and lucrative business in Humboldt County but, because Indian parents were generally “loath to part with their offspring at such ages as would make them most susceptible of training” [Humboldt Times, March 1, 1860] traders used other means to acquire them.
One visitor to Humboldt County was appalled to learn that “wild Indians” were being hunted for their children under the pretense of “war”. Indian traders would intentionally manufacture or elevate conflicts with the local Indian villages and demand protection from the local militias. Militias would attack the offending “savages” and kidnappers would follow the soldiers and take the children to ready buyers.
R. C. DRUM, a major with the U. S. Army, noted that many traffickers didn’t even bother manufacturing conflicts, complaining that they were “frequently attacking the rancherias, and killing the parents for no other purpose.” than to acquire Indian children. Drum heard that children could bring up to hundreds of dollars each.
The Indian Island Massacre and subsequent expulsion provided a convenient way to acquire children without the messy murders and kidnappings. Census records reveal many adults natives at the Klamath reservation, but very few native children between the ages of 6 and 18. Yet in the towns along Humboldt bay, there were over ninety Indian children and “half breeds” living in white households. A very few mothers of “half-breeds” were allowed to remain with their children. It looks like many others, such as Julia Robinson, were forced to go to the Klamath, and leave their children, some as young as a year old, behind [Ann Roberts, 1860 Census Records] .