Gold Rush Term Paper

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California History- Indians

The history of Californian Indians is not much different from the history of Indians in other parts of America. Unfortunately the Native Americans had a primitive life style and were no match for the European who discovered America. The Australian aborigines were also in a similar position and they too suffered a similar fate. The civilized Europeans brought untold misery, death and destruction to a society that was no match for the knowledge-wise superior, technically advanced, militarily more powerful and well armed Europeans.

As a result of the superiority of the colonizing European, the Native Americans were pushed gradually to lands that were of no commercial value to the new masters of the land. Diseases introduced into Americas by Europeans annihilated large population of Native Indians and alcohol, sexual exploitation and STD damaged their lifestyle and lives [Natives, 2004].

This exploitation continued well into the twentieth century and displacement of Native Indian from reserves continued with little or no compensation until the early twentieth century. The enlightened society of the twentieth century began to apply the laws which have been on the statutes for centuries to all Americans. Discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion and sex can not be legally justified anymore. This important factor now provides legal rights and new protection to Native Indians.

On Native Americans part, a desire to protect antiquated culture, economic activities fit for the societies of the tenth or twelfth centuries and failure to adapt to the changing times also spelled disaster for them. The apartheid introduced by allocation of Indian reserves isolated the natives and prevented them from becoming a normal productive citizen of United States.

California Indians

It is believed that Native Americans discovered North America some 25,000 years ago. Anthropologists agree that they entered into the Western hemisphere from Asia over the land bridge connecting the two continents during the glaciations near Bering Strait and along the North Pacific coast. These aborigines spread from Alaska to south and east [Natives, 2004].

It appears that migrations from Asia occurred in many waves over thousands of years accounting for the many native languages. Despite vast variation in languages, the Native Americans appear to have come from a single race explaining the common physical features; straight black hair, sparse body hair, skin color varying from yellow-brown to reddish brown and Mongoloid features all point to a common race. It is believed that California Indians arrived here some fifteen thousand years before the arrival of Europeans explorers.

Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was the first European to 'discover' California in 1542. He claimed this new found land for Spain. In 1579, Sir Frances Drake came to California and claimed the whole territory for English Crown. Thus the territories were claimed by two countries within a period of 50 years. Drake based his claim on the "right of discovery." In all this debate rights of natives were not even considered, although they had 'discovered' America well before the Europeans. As the Europeans were not affected by the diseases brought into America by them, it appears likely that the diseases were deliberately introduced among the Indians to annihilate the population. "Acknowledgment of the rights of the Indians was overshadowed in practical reality by the introduction of disease. It cannot be determined at this time exactly what effects early explorers and the introduction of their diseases had on California Indians during the early exploration periods. It is certain, however, is that European diseases eventually devastated the Indian population [Five Views, 2004]"

Population Decline of California Indian

The present boundaries of California had nearly 300, 000 Indians in 1769, when Hispanics began to colonize the area. By the end of Spanish rule in 1821, this population reduced to 200,000. It was estimated that at the time of discovery of Gold in 1948 there were 150,000 Indians living in California. During the gold rush era systematic killing and forced evictions reduced the population to just 20,000 by the end of 1850s [California Indians Past and Present, 2006]. The 2000 Census showed that nearly 334,000 Indians lived in California [Census, 2000]. This is about 12% of all Indians living in United States.

The distribution of Indians in California according to this census is shown in Figure 1 [Census, 2000]. In a majority of areas the numbers are in hundreds, in 49 out of the 58 areas, the population numbers less than 6000. Regions of population more than 6000 are shown in Figure-2. California Native languages are divided into seven stocks-- Algic, Hokan, Na-Dene, Penutian, Utian, Uto-Aztecan, and Yukian. Each of these stocks includes several language families that are further divided into individual languages.

Figure-1: Native California [Census 2000]



San Joaquin





Santa Clara





San Bernardino

San Diego

Los Angeles

Other Areas

Figure-2: Native California Population [Census 2000]

The present distribution of Indian population is of course not an indication of the original population distribution; larger economic centers have more Indians due to reasons of work and employment. Most of these Indians have assimilated in the main population. The Indians who want to retain their original lifestyle are more likely to be found in the areas where population numbers in hundreds.

Hundreds of years of victimizing Native Indians appear to have left the present day Non-Indians guilty and it is clear that State and Federal Governments are trying to compensate Natives for the misdeeds of the past generations. Recognition as Indians has entitled some of them to compensation in land or monetary terms which has resulted many people of Indian origin but with limited Indian blood in declaring their Indian ancestry.

It is clear that no matter how much compensation is offered to the present day Indians, the misdeeds of the past cannot be undone. America has changed for good and the Indians culture and lifestyle would have changed too, even if no Europeans had ever set foot on the continent. In this day and age Native Indians hankering for the past and trying to retain the lifestyle of 400 years ago is a kind of apartheid continuing till this day, part of it is due to the reservation policy.

In a normal situation Indians would have been absorbed in the main stream with their rightful place in the mainstream America. They could have of course retained their languages, Indian culture would have also evolved with the changing times and exposure to the new world over the last four hundred years. The greed of new comers to the new found land preferred to isolate the Natives and favored to consign them to god forsaken reservations where the fruits of progress of the rest of the country were denied to them and we continue to see a race that has failed to develop its potential and still is not as much part of the modern America as it should have been. The 400 years of exploitation of the native Indians discussed below remains a dark part of American history but the doctrine of separate development as some Indian's are advocating to this day will keep them at the bottom rung of progress.

Indian Plight since Columbian Period

European colonization since the 16th century, generally brought misery and exploitation to the colonized people. In many colonized countries this resulted in behavior that was unjustifiable even by the standards of that period, the opium wars against China; where the British colonizers were defending their rights to trade in opium, the slave trade from Africa, subjugation of people of Africa, where white minority rule continued till the end of twentieth century and thousands of other acts which would put these countries in International Criminal Courts today were committed against the colonized people and justified by the history of the victors.

In the case of Australia and America the colonized people were fewer in numbers, had a primitive lifestyle and were an obstruction in the way of the progress of the new settlers. These natives could be easily suppressed and indeed they were. The Indian history in California is normally divided into several periods each marking a major change in rules applicable during the period [Five Views, 2004].

American Indians in California Pre-1769

American Indians in California 1769-1848

American Indians in California 1849-1879

American Indians in California 1880-1904

American Indians in California 1905-1933

American Indians in California 1934-1964

American Indians in California 1965-1980

During the 1769-1848 period California was under the control of Spanish Colonizers. Franciscan missionaries established first of their 21 coastal missions in 1769. These missionary camps were basically labor camps where the Spanish soldiers intimidated the local Indians into seeking the protection of the mission supplying free labor to mission economic activities. The missionaries forcibly separated Indian children from their parents and kept them in crowded dormitories resulting in quick spread of epidemics.

The spread of epidemics strengthened the missionaries' power as the diseases only killed Indians. Sherburne Cook, a well-known demographer of the time estimated that 60% of the population of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Format

Gold Rush.  (2008, April 23).  Retrieved January 26, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Gold Rush."  23 April 2008.  Web.  26 January 2020. <>.

Chicago Format

"Gold Rush."  April 23, 2008.  Accessed January 26, 2020.