A quiet (and ineffectual) voice of reason

September 17, 2009

Ah… done with the little detour about the Royce’s journey to Weaverville and the Relief Parties formed to help the emigrants get to California alive,

 so now I’ll continue the thread on the reservations.

I used to wonder if I had a right to tell these stories.  I’m about as pale as you get and don’t have a single Cherokee Princess anywhere on the family tree.   How, I wondered, could I relate?

Then I realized that these aren’t “Native American” stories.  These are stories about PEOPLE, who happened to be indigenous to this area.  And stories about people, we can all relate to.   I don’t know how many people have been evicted from there homes, but even those likely had more than half a day’s notice.  The survivors of the Indian Island Massacre were told to be packed by sundown and could only take with them what they could carry.  They were then forced to walk to the Klamath Reservation, over sixty miles away. 

Look at your spouse, your children.  Could they walk to Garberville (if you live in NorHum), Eureka (if you live in SoHum), or any other sixty miles carrying everything they could ever need?   (Yeah, that’s what I thought when I looked at my kids).

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Indian Reserves, Part 1

September 9, 2009


After the Indian Island Massacre,    the surviving natives living along the bay were forced to abandon their homes and walk miles over rough terrain to the Klamath Reservation,   where they would be “safe” and out of the way.

 The reservation system in Humboldt County was initially developed to separate the “troublesome” natives from the white settlers.  Actually,  it was more to remove the indigenous people from rich agricultural land so that the whites could have full reign of the resources, but I want to believe that not everyone was motivated by greed. It seems at least some were convinced that forced isolation was the only way to protect the Indians.   The problem was that few people were willing to give up any valuable real estate to save them…

 Humboldt Times, April 28, 1855-Against a Hoopa Reservation –Indian Reservation—A correspondent made an inquiry of us as to the object sought to be gained by the establishment of an Indian Reservation in Hoopa Valley.  We do not know what the special agent has done or intends to do… There are fine locations to the north of us, at or near the mouth of the Klamath, or south of us on the Mattole, both far away from the whites, while a reservation in Hoopa is in the midst of what will be, in a year of two, a dense population both of farmers and miners. Hoopa is, and will always continue to be the great thoroughfare hence to the Salmon, and consequently there will always be difficulties between the Indians and whites.  The Indians will steal and white men will punish them. Bad whites are always to be found who cannot be prevented from maltreating them.  They will be only ten miles from the scene of their murders and butcheries, which are not forgotten or forgiven.  The two races cannot live together and they should be taken away from any association with white men…. we cannot believe that the agent will commit himself to a measure calculated to be so unpopular with the people and at the same time so expensive, as it will ultimately be to the United States, in keeping soldiers to protect the Indians.


To be continued…

Wrong upon wrong

August 21, 2009
Unidentified man in front of traditional house

Unidentified man in front of traditional house

After the massacres  “Exodus”  wrote a letter to the San Francisco Bulletin.  In the letter (s) he observed

“Individuals constitute a community, and the acts of each member make up the common character of the whole body.  It must be expected that villains will grumble and snarl; but it is the duty of the Press, the Bench, the Pulpit, and of every honest man, to denounce crime.  This is a duty which we owe to Heaven and the society  in which we live—not merely a passive duty, for their villainies must go unpunished, and each good citizen will be victimized in his turn—but an active, zealous duty, bringing to justice especially those who out-savage the savage.  We must not lay the flattering unction to our souls that in the great day of account and retribution, when the catalogue of human frailties and crimes is read out, we have disapproved sufficiently by our silence along, lest the Mene Tekel—“thou art weighted in the balance and found wanting”—be pronounced against us and “thou shouldst not follow a multitude to do evil”. [San Francisco Bulletin,  April 23, 1860]

Exodus was prompted by what he (I’m just going to say “he” though ok, it might have been a woman) saw as a compounding of wrong upon wrong.

Many, or a few very verbal and outspoken, in Humboldt County saw the massacre as the inevitable result of racial intermixing and segregation as the only solution.  I could comment on the following, but the articles say too much already…

 1860, Mar. 28–Plan to Remedy the Indian Difficulty

To any one who has given the subject the least attention, or is acquainted with the Indian character, it must be apparent that the two races cannot live together.  The Indians  of this coast are not capable of either honesty, industry, or gratitude.  They cannot be controlled except with a strong hand. Before they can be made to respect and obey, they must be taught to fear the consequences of disobedience. The natives must be removed by some means or the county abandoned to their possession. To make war upon them with the purpose of indiscriminate “extermination,” is neither wise or humane, neither good policy nor right.  Some other mode to rid the country of their dangerous presence should be adopted. Those living near the settlements should be removed to the Reservation.

 We are authorized by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs of this State, to say that he will receive and retain them, if he can have the assistance and cooperation of our citizens. That officers require assistance in collecting the Indians together, and an assurance from our people to the Indians that they will not be permitted again to live in this county. This plan, no doubt, is perfectly practicable, and in a short time we may have riddance of a very large number, who, if they do not themselves commit depredations, have furnished arms and ammunition to the mountain Indians. The removal of these “friendly” Indians will cut off the supplies and break up the hiding places of those openly hostile.  To carry this plan into effect there must be favorable concert of action on the part of the people.  Let there be not favorites excepted, and no tampering with the Indians allowed. All of the coast Indians out of the way, measures can be taken toward those openly hostile, living in the mountains, that will effectually put a stop to their depredations. [The Northern Californian]

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