Native Resistance

September 28, 2009
Lucy Young

Lucy Young

 

Not all of the natives went peacefully to the reservations .  Last night I was contacted by a descendent of Chief Lassic (Lassac, Lasac, Lassik), who was noted for his resistance of white incursions.

One website, , quoting  Genocide and Vendetta, says:

  • Further north in Humboldt County there was widespread resistance. One of the most active was Chief Lassik’s band, which succeeded in driving the settlers out of their territory in southeastern and southwestern Humboldt County. Chief Lassik and his band were captured in 1862, but were able to escape from the Smith River Reservation. After escaping, he headed south along the Klamath River and “stirred up discontent and revengeful feelings.” Although Chief Lassik was finally caught and killed in 1863, for over one year he was able to carry on a campaign of resistance against the settlers.

 

And it appears he did draw blood…

 Corp Larrabee is seriously wounded with an arrow (it appears this happened while attacking Lassic’s band where four Indians were killed). [June 22, 1861, Humboldt Times]

Note that Larrabee was a known Indian killer, and thought to be a main perpetrator of the Indian Island Massacre  and other murders of Natives.

 Lassic was captured and held for a time on the makeshift Indian prison created out of the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt Bay in 1862.  A local newspaper editor toured the “indian quarters”,  noting that “to a person who has never seen a band of 700 to 800 wild Indians of all ages together, the sight is truly novel”.

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A deadly “cold”

February 5, 2010

I’ve  been having a lot of fun with this blog lately.  I LOVE finding random historical stuff to share and the great, encouraging feedback I get (thanks, everyone!)

 That said, every once in a while I need to return to why I created this site in the first place.   Learning about Lucy’s murder and the “settlement period” of Humboldt County (1850s and 1860s)  opened my eyes an inportant aspect of our community’s history. One that I believe is too often ignored or swept away.

The rugged isolation of our northcoast region protected the Native Americans living here long after the rest of the state had been settled by the Spanish, and the missions dominated the landscape and altered indigenous life forever. 

Unfortunately, the discovery of gold, and a desire for a faster, easier routes to the inland gold mines brought an end to Humboldt County’s isolation.  White settlers came into the area and began competing for resources,

 And women.

Out-armed and unprepared, the indigenous people were soon dominated by the whites. Most that didn’t surrender, died.  There were a few, however, that resisted the white’s incursion on their ancestral land and were successful for a time.  One was “Chief Lassik”,

(From an earlier post)

One website,   quoting  Genocide and Vendetta, says:

  • Further north in Humboldt County there was widespread resistance. One of the most active was Chief Lassik’s band, which succeeded in driving the settlers out of their territory in southeastern and southwestern Humboldt County. Chief Lassik and his band were captured in 1862, but were able to escape from the Smith River Reservation. After escaping, he headed south along the Klamath River and “stirred up discontent and revengeful feelings.” Although Chief Lassik was finally caught and killed in 1863, for over one year he was able to carry on a campaign of resistance against the settlers.

 

I’ve been looking through old newspapers lately, and just ran across the following regarding the demise of Chief Lassik, which is in sharp contrast to his niece’s recollection, which I’ll repost after this “official” newspaper report.  Yeah, I know it was “war”, but that doesn’t make learning about it any easier.

Humboldt Times, 23 January 1863– “It is pretty well know that an inveterate hatred exists between that portion of the Wylackie tribe … known as the “Gun Indians” and the whites living in the valleys living and canons north of here.  A few days since, a number of them, including Lasseck, then chief, ere captured by teh whites, and taken to Fort Seward. From then they attempted to take them to the Reservation–to Round Valley, we prsume–but “on the way they took cold and died.”  This, at least, is the way we get the word.  But knowing,m as we do, the animosity existing between these Indians and the whites inhabiting the region of the Humboldt mail route, and the numerous depredatiknos supposed to have been committed by them, we susepct the “cold” they died with was mainly cold lead.–Quoting the Mendocino Herald.

We have received a letter from Fort Seward corraborating the above intelligence.  Five of Lassux’ band died with the same kind of “cold” as himself.  As the alternative is now Smith River, or Round Valley, we are under the impression that Superintendent Handon will not be under the necessity of squandering any more of the “small pittance” allowed him by the Government in removing Indians from this county to eighter of the above named Reservations.  Unless Government provided other quarters, this “cold” epidemic will rage fearfully among Indians that fall in to the hands of citizens, if not the soldiers. 

As a little girl, Lucy Young, Lassik’s niece, witnessed and  later told the story of her uncle’s death.

At last I come home. Mother at Fort Seward. Before I get there, I see big fire in lots down timber and treetops. Same time awful funny smell. T think someone get lots of wood.

I go on to house. Everybody crying. Mother tell me, “All our men killed now.” She say white men there, others come from Round Valley, Humboldt County too, kill our old uncle, Chief Lassic, and all other men.

Stood up about forty Inyan in a row with rope around neck. “What’s this for?” Chief Lassic say. “To hang you dirty dogs,” white men tell it. “Hanging, that’s dogs death,” Chief Lassic say. “We done nothing to be hung for. Must die, shoot us.”

So they shoot. All our men. Then build fire with wood and brush. Inyan been cut for days. Never know it their own funeral fire they fix. Build big fire, burn all them bodies. That’s funny smell I smell before I get to house. Make hair raise on back of my neck. Make sick stomach too.

 


Ghosts aren’t the boss of me, but they still kinda push me around

August 18, 2009
Bret Harte

Bret Harte

So I wrote Saturday’s post in what felt like an act of defiance, demonstrating that I have conscious control over the direction of my blog.  I talked about my love of historic homes and posted the photo of one where Bret Harte,  a well known 19th  century write and mentor to Mark Twain, once lived. 

Yet, as some readers may know, the story of Bret Harte leads me right back to the story of the Indian Island massacre.  His story of the massacre.  So much for conscious control :-/.

Some call Bret Harte’s time in Humboldt County his lost years.  He arrived here Humboldt in 1857, twenty-one years old, slender, quiet and a bit of a “dandy”,  in contrast to many of the local frontiersmen, who were rough, tough and armed.  Harte made friends here, but stayed out of the saloons and away from the miners and others who mocked his fine clothes and good vocabulary.

Harte came up here likely at the urging of his sister, Margaret Wyman, who lived in Union and was married to a local judge.  After his arrival, he taught local children, wrote stories and poems,  and eventually landed a job with the Union (Arcata) newspaper, the Northern Californian. 

Harte was acting editor of the paper in the last weeks of February, 1860 and is credited by many for bringing the details of the massacre before the public eye by publishing a description in the Northern Californian.  (I’ll post his article at the end of this post, so only folks that want to read it will see the details).

It was rumored that he was confronted by an angry mob for his sympathetic stance for the Natives and driven out of the county  to San Francisco, never to return.

After leaving the North Coast, Harte found  work editing the Californian and then The Overland Monthly.  It was in these that he published his well known The Luck of Roaring Camp, The Outlaws of Poker Flat and other well known short stories and poems that focused on frontier life in the west.

Harte did not write specifically about his experiences in Humboldt County-though it is obvious in his stories, such as the Three Vagabonds of Trinidad.

Ernie has helped to highlight that it wasn’t just bad guys here, and that a climate of hatred and fear permeated much of the local culture.  For Harte and others like him, it must have been overwhelming…

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Too many bad guys won

August 7, 2009

Capt. Foss Geer

Capt. Foss Geer

I was recently in the Humboldt State Library and ran across this  photo of Knyphausen (Foss) Geer.  Geer fought in the militia against the Indians and was a self professed Indian fighter.  Geer would complain, though, that it wasn’t really fighting because the natives generally offered no resistance. 

“ They simply hid as they always did.  It was always more trouble to trail them down then to fight them… for it would be just a little scrap and then they would run to hide… [6 Oct. 1856-personal account, Knyphausen Geer].  Of course this didn’t stop Geer from tracking down the fleeing natives and killing them.

Geer lived long enough to become an old man and I can’t help feeling the unjustness of that. He took who knows how many lives, and yet I can’t know that he suffered for it.   I do wonder, sometimes, if the “bad whites” as they were called, were ever haunted later by their activities during the “Indian war”.  Yet… war is war, and maybe they excused their actions that way.

Maybe this is part of why I have such a hard time with Ernie’s comments that the  Indian people were doomed from the moment Columbus landed in America.   He’s likely right. There was nothing many of the natives could do to alter their fate. The Indian Island  massacre demonstrates this all too clearly.  Many will argue that an indigenous people can survive an invasion by assimilating into the new culture, but many on the island had done just that.  The women worked as domestics in white households, the men helped with farming and fishing.  It didn’t make a damn bit of difference.  They died anyway.

 More info about Geer and the murder of Chas. Hicks…

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