Our children lost forever

August 31, 2009

There has been considerable interest and discussion about the topic of kidnapping and indenture, so I thought I would just continue the subject with another post…

Helen Carpenter lived in Mendocino and published a first hand account of her observations of Woodman, a known Indian trader.  Some may have been convinced that placing kidnapped children in white homes was “rescuing” them, but Carpenter vividly demonstrates that the facts show otherwise.  We’ll never know how many local children were kidnapped from this area… how many suffered and died.

I know this is more “horror”, but I really do think we must know and understand a history before we can truly move beyond it. 

From “Among the Diggers of Thirty Years Ago”…

 NIGHT was fast closing in on a cold, rainy March day, as Woodman drove into town. The horses were thin and jaded, and in . keeping with the old,unpainted farm wagon, with its irregular, battered bed, sitting low between the mud-covered wheels. There was nothing unusual in the appearance of the man or his outfit, to excite the interest or curiosity of one unacquainted with his practices ; but to old residents his presence was proof positive that he was “attending to biz,” ” bringing in quail.”

To those familiar with the early history of Mendocino County, the name of Woodman is well known. He made himself famous as an “Injunman ” and kidnaper of Indian children, and was a terror to the tribes living north of Ukiah. Even in comfortable homes of the whites his name was more feared by the children than the famous ” Booger Man.”

 For many months a few Indian children at a time had been brought down from the mountains on horseback, two or three tied on one horse. They varied in age from two to twelve years. Mr. C— provided a stopping place for the “quail,” en route to Sonoma and Napa counties. They came ready picked, and to make them presentable to the outside world, the kind lady of the house provided them with traveling costumes; a single article of dress to the child, an old shirt or a bit of calico fashioned into the mere semblance of a garment, without hem, band, button, or sleeve. And thus the poor little shivering bodies, already sore from mountain travel, were put on horses and rushed into civilization at the rate of thirty-five or forty miles a day.

 While he was making himself comfortable, after disposing of his load, a friend entertained him with the unguarded remarks of some citizens, which resulted in his making application next day to County Judge William Henry for the guardianship of the children, under the State law recently enacted, which authorized the local county courts to bind the Indians to persons believed to be suitable as guardians, who were supposed to be solicitous of their temporal and spiritual welfare. This was done with the intention of providing homes for the Indians not immediately under Federal authority ; but in most cases it brought about little less than downright slavery.

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Mass murder made acquiring slaves easier

August 28, 2009


Grace Carpenter's depiction of captured Indian children

Grace Carpenter's depiction of captured Indian children

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.

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