Who says racism can’t be funny?

November 12, 2009

So I’ve posted a lot here about the history of the local Native Americans, their experiences during the settlement period, and the racism that unfortunately still exists.

Fortunately, most Native Americans don’t focus on the negative and even find a way to laugh at the ignorance and racism of others.   My husband is a member of the Yurok Tribe and recently received the following in a little newsletter from the Yurok Indian Housing Authority.

Top ten things Native Americans should say to “white” people…

10.  How much white are you?

9.  I’m part white myself, you know.

8. I learned all your people’s ways in the “Boy Scouts”

7. My great-grandma was a full-blooded white American princess

6. Funny, you don’t look white.

5. Where’s your powdered wig and knickers?

4. Do you live in a covered wagon?

3. What’s the meaning behind the square dance?

2. What’s your feeling about Las Vegas Casinos?  Do they really help your people or are they just a short-term fix?

1.  Hey, can I take your picture?

Legacy of slavery in California

September 30, 2009
Native Children on the Hoopa Reservation

Native Children on the Hoopa Reservation


I started this blog just before the Hoopa Tribal Chair was arrested in an incident involving an argument, a gun, and a family member or two (see article ).

While the incident was shocking and sad for all involved, thankfully no one got hurt, physically.  Emotionally it may have been a different story, and not just for the family and the tribal members involved.    Comments from readers of the Times Standard article ranged from sympathetic  to racist and hate- filled.  

It was unbelievable and far too familiar.  These were the same ignorant , misguided, judgemental beliefs that caused such suffering here so many years ago when the whites came in and marginalized the indigenous people.      

Last night  Patricia Whitelily commented that even now being Native American is  looked at as a deficit by some people,  and though I’d really like to argue with her,  some of the evidence falls in her favor.

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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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Setting the stage for legalized slavery In California

September 22, 2009
1847 Map of Yerba Buena, aka San Francisco

1847 Map of Yerba Buena, aka San Francisco


As early as 1846, the powers that be in California were setting the stage for legal indenture, or enslavement, of Native Americans. 

 Captain John B. Montgomery was commander of the U.S.S. Portsmouth stationed at Yerba Buena, later known as San Francisco, when he received orders to claim the town for the United States.    Montgomery placed an American flag at the Plaza on July 9, 1846 and worked with Lieutenant Washington Bartlett, a junior officer on the Portsmouth, over the next five months to organize a local government for  San Francisco.

 In September, 1846, Montgomery issued the following proclamation.  On the surface, it appears to guard the Natives against illegal capture and enslavement, and in fact the title of the San Francisco history page where the proclamation is posted is called “End of Indian Slavery in San Francisco”.  But if you read closer, the wording simply transferred control of those natives from non-Americans to Americans by requiring those wanting Indian servants to obtain a contract from an American Justice.      It also requires that all natives “obtain service”, so they had to work for someone or risk “arrest and punishment by labor on the public works”.  

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Censoring history doesn’t change it, so I’ll resist

September 18, 2009
From Kapel; shows extreme isolation of the area

From Kapel; shows extreme isolation of the area

So  I’m sitting here this morning trying to think of something to post instead of the following, but… but I do think it is important to tell the whole story and not edit the ugly parts, as much as I want to on this bright and sunny day.  So… here it is.

The more I think about it (and read the available info), the more I have to admit that the whites were right about one thing.  The natives did need protection.  The isolation of Humboldt County offered a convenient haven for “unscrupulous whites”, who felt free to act with impunity.  As late as 1857 the county supervisors were still trying to get a jail built and the folks in Orleans were using a tree to hold their prisoners.

Humboldt Times, October 25, 1856-Orleans Jail–Quote from the Sluice Box, describing the Orleans Jail:   “Erected in 1232, built of live oak—a large oak tree with a staple and chain attached…. “


The North Coast was a good place to be if you were a bad guy. The Natives weren’t always the only ones targeted by these thugs, but those on the reservations were easy to find and vulnerable. Nobody cared much if did whatever you wanted (or at least they didn’t stop you)  and if the Natives resisted, you could simply kill them.   And unfortunately, as the following shows, the reservation didn’t necessarily offer the protection promised to the Natives by the government…   I’ve used excerpts of this article before, but the whole thing gives you a better picture of the white men involved.

[As an aside, some of my husband’s ancestors are from Kapel….  This could be his great-grandmother who was stabbed.   Also note that in the second article, the rape of the two little girls isn’t even mentioned. ] Read the rest of this entry »

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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Problems with the Klamath Reservation didn’t stop ’em

September 11, 2009
Mouth of the Klamath

Mouth of the Klamath

Continued from yesterday’s post.

There were problems with the Klamath location for an Indian reservation, which were pointed out by those outside of Humboldt County. 

New Klamath Reservation–  We had the pleasure a few days since of perusing a private letter from one of the deputies of the Indian agent of the Northern part of the State, dated at the Indian Reserve, near the mouth of the Klamath River.  He thinks the place is a bad selection, and wholly unfit for the purpose intended.  This is [not] the first time this opinion has been expressed in relation to the Klamath Reserve.  The valley, or rather valleys, are narrow, skirting along the river for several miles, separate by spurs of mountains, intersecting the river at various points.  These valley are (unknown word, likely “not” ) adapted to cultivation and game is scarce.  If the Indians have to obtain subsistence by fishing, the Government had better leave them… unmolested.–~Trinity Journal

Response from the Humboldt Times…

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Saving a starfish

September 4, 2009
Baskets were sometimes the only thing of value the Natives had

Baskets were sometimes the only thing of value the Natives had

While walking along the ocean, a man saw thousands of starfish the tide had thrown onto the beach. Unable to return to the water during low tide, the starfish were dying. He observed a young man picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the water.

After watching the seemingly futile effort, the observer said, “There must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly save enough to matter.”

The young man smiled as he continued to pick up another starfish and tossed it back into the ocean. “It matters to this one,” he replied.

                This story is used by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)   an organization near and dear to me that provides volunteer advocates for children in foster care.  I’ve included the little story because I  believe the same sentiment can be applied here.  

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Where are my heroes?

September 3, 2009


Unknown subjects

Unknown subjects

There has been much discussion of the treatment of Native Americans during the settlement period, and if present day folks really have a right to judge the settlers for their actions when we can’t truly understand their experience. (Ernie’s Blog  is a good place to read some different perspectives on the topic).

I have been following the discussion with the unspoken conviction that there were good people here during the settlement period.  People that recognized the inhumanity of the treatment of the natives and did what they could to help.  When I first found Carpenter’s article, Among the Diggers of Thirty Years Ago,

published in the Overland Monthly,  by Bret Harte,  I thought I’d found a progressive thinker and I was thankful that someone had provided us with such a vivid  and sympathetic picture of the settlement period and the experience of children kidnapped and indentured. 

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Among the Diggers

September 2, 2009


Another "quail" by Grace Carpenter-Hudson, Helen's daughter

Another "quail" by Grace Carpenter-Hudson, Helen's daughter

This is the third part of a three part series containing excerpts of an article, Among the Diggers of Thirty Years Ago,  written by Helen Carpenter, a resident of Mendocino County during the settlement period.





 It is interesting to note the  Carpenter’s article was published in the Overland Monthly—  in 1893, by our own Bret Harte .

 Click HERE for Part 1

  and HERE for Part 2 …

 … On one of Cap’s trips down from his stock ranch, he stopped for the night at a farmhouse. Three Indian boys accompanied him, and although the weather was cold, they had no clothing except shirts, miner’s sizes at that, although the boys were little higher than a chair. Cap told quite a pathetic little tale of the death of their parents, and friends of the boys wanted him to raise them, etc, etc., all of which was not disputed by the boys, as they could neither speak nor understand one word of English ; but they knew how to eat, and the farmer’s wife fairly stuffed them before making them comfortable for the night in the kitchen, before a large open fireplace. In an adjoining shed hung half a beef, and those little fellows put in a good part of the night cooking and eating such scraps as they could haggle off with a dull case knife; and then before it was fairly daylight they captured a lot of young chickens, thinking no doubt they were grouse. Timely interference saved the chickens, to the disappointment of the boys.

Of course, the Indians had names, but no amount of persuasion could induce them to disclose any. If asked “What is your name?” the stereotyped answer was, “No name.” ” O, yes, you have a name. What is it in Injun ?”

” No name.”

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