Copyright 1997 by
Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA 91711
The Origins of California's Tribes Archaeologists have long theorized that the earliest humans in the American continents came here from Siberia. During the last great period of glaciation, the Wisconsin, the ocean levels dropped below the continental shelf between Alaska and Siberia and exposed a large continuous landmass that we call Beringia. The land crossing was available for at least 10,000 years. Glaciation was at its height in about 16,000 B.C. and Beringia had been sufficiently submerged again, by 8000 B.C., to prevent further migration. All of this fits in neatly with the fact that, for many years, the only acceptable dates for early human presence were associated with the Llano Complex in the Southwest --- chiefly, Clovis (9500-9000 B.C.) and Folsom (9000-8000 B.C.).
The term "migration" is about as unrealistic as the term "land bridge" that is often used. In fact, it was an expanse of land which was gradually settled eastward over many generations. If a generation is fifteen years, and each generation settled a mere twenty-five miles further east, in the land, both animal and human occupation would have proceeded 250 miles eastward in 150 years, 2500 miles in 1500 years, and 25,000 miles in 15,000 years. This means that, if Beringia was first exposed in 24,000 B.C., Old World animals and humans could easily have fully inhabited the American continents, all the way south to Chile, by 8000 B.C. when access was ended.
There are problems with this theory, of course. One of these is the fact that glaciation made the exposure of Beringia possible but also blocked the path with harsh cold, mountainous ice shelves, and few opportunities for nourishment. Was there an open corridor through Canada? How long? Did early people move along the coastline on exposed continental shelf? Another problem is that archaeologists are slowly discovering sites that date much further back in time --- 30,000 and even 40,000 years ago. If these dates are eventually accepted, then early humans had to reach the Americas by means other than land. Some theorists are beginning to consider the possibility that people migrated to South America by boat via the South Pacific, within the very early timeframe when the South Pacific Islands were being settled.
All of these theoretical discussions clearly assume that the Americas had to be settled by inward migration from the Old World and rely on the idea that human evolution began in Africa. Other people suggest, on the contrary, that humans have always lived in the Americas or were created in this place. The majority of origin myths, traditional to Native Americans, explicitly tell of these things. Some people even assert theories of "reverse migration" --- suggesting that origins in the Americas supplied the original humans to the rest of the world.
No matter where one stands on theories of human creation or migration, it remains interesting to ask how humans first arrived in California. Native California origin myths almost always tell of local creation. The Maidu and Cahuilla stories are representative, and they can be contrasted with the Zuni myth, from the Southwest, which tells of people's subterranean origin followed by a hard and lengthy migration into Zuni territory.
For professional archaeologists, there is little or no evidence that can suggest how the first people arrived in California. Perhaps by sea? Along the coastline? Westward out of the Southwest? Who knows. What archaeologists can say is that several Paleoindian sites are firmly established in California; and half of these are along the coastline. San Diego County claims that largest concentration. While dates remain in dispute on most of these, there is no doubt that they are at least 10,000-11,000 years old. (For some information about California archaeology)
Of greater interest, perhaps, is the huge period of time from 8000 B.C. to 1500 A.D., when the continents were not visited by other people. In their treatise on California's archaeology, the Chartkoffs divide this period into two parts. The first is the Archaic and it is a complex of cultural lifeways shared throughout the Western United States for a long time and continued in the Great Basin region right up to the time of Euro-American invasion. The second is the Pacific and it is a complex of distinctive lifeways that were well fitted to specific ecological niches and that represent the development of California's more-than-one-hundred distinct tribes.
The Archaic, in California, began at the end of the Paleoindian period, about 10,000 years ago, and ended for most people around 4000 years ago. It is distinguished from the Paleoindian period by the decline in nomadic big-game hunting that centered around large desert playas and by the rise of a much more systematic and somewhat localized utilization of diverse resources. Typical of the Archaic period is the so-called "Annual Round." People were neither nomadic nor committed to a single locality; instead, they lived in a seasonal cycle that incorporated a succession of localities and, ultimately, led them back to a wintering haven. Their "Annual Round" allowed them to appropriate and utilize resources as they became available. They became experts in their natural environments, understanding seasonal diversity and developing specialized tools for processing foods. The millstone horizon falls within this period; that is to say, people began to appropriate seeds and nuts and to grind them into meals that could be baked or mixed into mushy soups.
The Pacific period, in California, began around 2000 B.C. This date should be compared with the evolution of tribal cultures in Europe and around the Eastern Mediterranean, in the period from 3000 B.C. to 2300 B.C. In California, language is often a good clue to origins. It is interesting to note, then, that linguists believe many of the northern Hokan speakers became isolated from each other around 2500 to 2000 B.C. When we identify the tribes that were Hokan speakers on the language map, it appears that they may have been pushed apart by inward migrating Penutian speakers who filled the Central Valley and Foothills. Somewhat later, perhaps as late as 500 B.C., another inward migration seems to have brought Uto-Aztecan speakers from the Great Basin all the way to the Pacific Coast, separating the Hokan speaking Chumash from the Ipai/Tipai.
Whatever the origins of these people, as they settled into California's unique ecological regions, they began to utilize resources in quite different ways. Archaic life was largely hand-to-mouth and provided little surplus; people of the Pacific period began to develop food sources that could provide surpluses. More to the point, they began to develop ways of processing and preserving food resources that did occur in sufficient quantity to be put away for later consumption. These resources might be harvested in relatively short periods of time, but they could be harvested and processed in sufficient quantity that the resulting supply of food would last through the year. For most of California, the acorn and salmon were crucial to this cultural complex; they were nourishing, plentiful staple foods. Where acorns and salmon were not available, they were replaced by pine nuts, mesquite beans, or rabbits.
The importance of the development of staple foods lies in the fact that it allowed people of the Pacific period to settle into a locality. This promoted coalescence into tribes and tribelets, identification with localities, and development of a strong cultural relationship between context and custom. It is easy to see the result of this process in ritual celebrations such as "First Fruit" celebrations.
The people of California were entirely unaware of and unaffected by the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492. But, fifty years later, in 1542, Juan Rodrieguez Cabrillo sailed along California's coast and investigated San Diego Bay, Catalina Island, San Pedro, and the Channel Islands. Thirty-seven years later, Francis Drake explored portions of the northern coastline and may have spent a month's time with groups of Coastal Miwoks. Little in these first contacts was traumatic and few native people were affected; but stories about these white visitors with their big ships and loud guns must have crept into narratives throughout the state. At the same time, since the Spanish had already moved into the Southwest and attempted to incorporate the pueblo people into their archaic feudalism, by the early 1600s, stories must have traveled westward along numerous trading routes. California's isolation was about to end.
Dixon, E. James. Quest for the Origin of the First Americans (University of New Mexico
Chartkoff, Joseph L. And Kerry Kona Chartkoff. The Archaeology of California (Stanford University Press, 1984).
In the United States, Spain had occupied only New Mexico and portions of the Gulf Coast; however, it had always laid claim to all the land westward to the Pacific Ocean. By the second half of the 18th Century, the presence of other nations, especially Russia and England in the Northwest, was a growing concern; thus, in order to establish authority over Alta California and to secure the coast from foreign intervention, Visitor-General Jose de Galvez formulated a plan for the consolidation of Spanish power in all of the northern provinces of New Spain.
A crucial part of this plan was the expedition of 1769 into Alta California that would lead, ultimately, to missionization of the entire coastline, from Baja California north to Sonoma. The expeditionary force was two-fold; it included soldiers under the command of Gaspar de Portolá and Franciscan missionaries under the leadership of Father Junipero Serra. The project, as it was then conceived, was to establish a foothold in San Diego from which a further expedition could reach and establish itself at Monterey Bay. Monterey was chosen because the value of its harbor had been considerably extolled, though in fact exaggerated, by the reports of Sebastián Vizcaíno in 1602, returning from the last of the early sea expeditions. While the expedition suffered great losses and hardships, both by sea and by way of its land approach, through Baja California, it arrived in the area of San Diego now called Mission Valley in July 1769. From here, Portola and some soldiers continued northward to Monterey, while Serra remained behind to found the first mission.
Mission San Diego de Alcala (named for a Franciscan, Diego of Alcala, sainted in 1588) was ceremonially established by the erection of a cross and celebration of mass on a great hillside overlooking the ocean. The party attempted to attract the attention of local Indians by hanging bells in trees and putting out token gifts. The Indians remained unimpressed, however, and attacked the settlement within its first month. In 1774, the mission itself was moved across and up the valley somewhat to a better location, and the Presidio remained on the commanding hillside. Relations with local Indians remained poor. Not a single Indian was baptized during the mission's first year; and only sixty were baptized when the new mission church was constructed in 1774. In the following year, the church was burned to the ground in an attack that also led to the death of Father Luis Jayme, California's first Catholic martyr. Tension remained high for at least two years, when finally a new church was built. Indians surrendered to superior Spanish firepower.
While the first military post, Presidio de San Diego, and the first mission, San Diego de Alcala, were being founded in 1769, Portola was hunting desperately for the magnificent bay of Monterey. Having planted a cross and temporary fortification next to the only bay to be discovered, which he thought could not possibly be the one praised by Vizcaino, he continued his search northward. Alas, Portola finally recognized the mistake, and Fr. Serra moved the location of the mission complex five miles south of Portola's presidio, naming it after San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, founding what became the community of Carmel. The first building at Carmel was not finished until 1797. The last of the missions, San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, was founded in 1823, just two years after Mexico had declared its independence from Spain. In all, twenty one missions were established along the entire length of coast from San Diego to Sonoma.
The mode of Spanish settlement was simple and followed the same essential lines in each location. A cross was erected; mass was celebrated; and attempts were made to contact the local Indians. As labor and resources were organized, permanent buildings were constructed. These always included a fortress, or presidio, and a mission complex, including a church, residencies, and work areas. Eventually, these were joined by a small civil complex, or colony. Indians were invited to create a village next to the mission complex, though unmarried Indian women and children were usually forced to live inside the mission in chaste seclusion.
The Spanish attitude toward indigeous people was to recognize them as human beings living in a natural relationship with their environs, rather like the animals of the forests. From a cultural point of view, generally speaking, they recognized no tendency toward civilization among these people and, instead, viewed them as entirely uncivilized. They responded by viewing themselves as "bringing the gifts of civilization" to these people, though later analysts have questioned whether such gifts were needed. From a Spanish theological standpoint, indigenous people were pagans who were desperately in need of conversion to Christianity for the salvation of their souls. This conversion was a high priority and was implemented through baptism, instruction in Catholic rituals, moral education, incorporation into the mission community, and enforcement of strict discipline. "Enforcement" included incarceration, public humiliation, flogging, and even capital punishment.
From an economic and political standpoint, indigenous people represented the lowest possible class of people in Spanish feudal society and were easily folded into the feudal system which the missionaries carried with them into Alta California. Under this system, only the highest classes of Spanish society actually owned land, had rights, and made decisions. It was expected that all others would sort themselves out into subordinate classes which, if they exercised power or autonomy, possessed importance only relative to each other. Of these classes, those who found themselves at the lowest levels were destined to work hardest and were expected to give up most of the product of their labors for the enrichment of the system as a whole. It was inherent to the Spanish view of life and society, in other words, that the Indian, once brought within the gifts of Spanish civilization, would occupy the lowest rung of social order and, thereupon, would perform the necessary labors of brick making, timber cutting, building construction, farm maintenance, and domestic service.
Later rationalizations of the mission era would look back upon it fondly as a period of education for the Indians, bringing them agriculture and modern trades as well as the gift of Catholic salvation. What a strange shock it must have been for the Native Californians who lived along the coast, from San Diego to San Francisco Bay, to experience these revelations of European civilization. Having lived thousands of years without interference, Native Californians found themselves intruded upon by numbers of strangely clothed people who brought with them remarkably powerful weapons as well as domesticated animals, never before seen --- horses, oxen, cows, pigs, etc. These newcomers behaved as though the land was theirs and asserted their right to dictate events. They urged Native people to adopt their gods and rituals; and they encouraged them to adopt European agriculture and animal husbandry. If an Indian accepted what the Fathers called "baptism," he or she was forced to leave the family village and kinship relations and to live within the mission complex. The Indian experiencing "missionization" was commanded in many ways, not just to work, but also to foresake all elements of the Indian's natural culture, from diet to dress to behavior. The Spanish were neither understanding nor forgiving of "infractions" against their rules and laws; the Indian who carried natural behavior into the Spanish world quickly learned how violent a disciplinarian the Spanish could be.
In consequence of all this, the attrition from mission back to village was high. Baptismal records themselves tend to demonstrate that the largest number of Indians who availed themselves of baptism were either infants, too young to know what was happening, or aged, too old to run away to the village. After a relatively short period of seeking voluntary submission, the Spanish missionaries began using the soldiers to bring in healthy Indian "recruits" for salvation from increasingly distant villages. Equally well, the soldiers were used to enforce discipline by bringing back Indian neophytes who had attempted to return to their villages, and this process was facilitated by branding the missionized Indians with crosses or other signs.
By far the greatest cause of attrition, however, was disease. The Spanish brought European diseases for which Native Americans had no established immunity; these included common venereal and respiratory diseases as well as pneumonia, tuberculosis, small pox, and measles. Careful research has demonstrated that, in most mission areas, the Indian death rate rose to a point more than double the declining birth rate. It is estimated that, during the mission period, from 1769 until 1832, the population of indigenous people affected by the Spanish had declined by 50%. It is also estimated that one half of this decline was the direct result of imported diseases. The greatest effect was experienced by women, whose populations declined so swiftly that the proportion of men to women rose from 1.1, at the beginning of the period, to 1.45 or above.
Beyond disease itself is the matter of diet. California Indians were accustomed to a rich and varied diet of natural grains, vegetables, fish, and animal meat. The "gift" of European agriculture and animal husbandry brought them milk, which made them sick because they lacked the enzymes for digesting it, and a monotonous ration of atole, a starchy cereal soup. The Spanish knew little of acorn nutrition and thrived on corn; however, as much as they tried to teach California Indians the cultivation of corn, they failed because the varieties of corn available to them did not grow well along the California coast. (Ironically, there is some evidence to show that California Indians were well informed about corn cultivation from their eastern neighbors but already knew that corn did poorly in their climate.) Combined with the European taste for crowded housing, in which sanitation and fresh air were problems, Indian health was constantly placed at risk. Sadly, however, there is ample written evidence to indicate that, from the Spanish Catholic point of view, the only important matter was achieving a satisfactory conversion to Catholicism prior to inevitable death.
By the end of the mission era, the Spanish had clearly established missions, military strongholds, and small civilian colonies. They had exercised a substantial influence over all indigenous people from San Diego to north of the San Francisco Bay and from the coast inland even into the western sides of the Central Valley. Those Indians who had been baptised and who had lived within the mission world for any significant period had acquired knowledge of European agriculture, animal husbandry, and construction techniques. They had been molded into a primitive but significant labor force. These same people had been thoroughly instructed in Christian life and ritual, and every attempt had been made to force their conformity to Christian moral practices. They had been given Spanish names and Spanish clothing; substantial attempts had been made to destroy their indigenous cultures, break their family and village ties, and especially end the spiritual connection with tribal shamans. In most of this the Spanish had been successful, though at incredible cost of lives. Indians learned well and adopted attractive aspects of Spanish material culture, as it was practical to do so.
Costo, Rupert and Jeanette Henry Costo (eds). The Missions of California: A Legacy of
Genocide (San Francisco: Indian Historian Press, 1987)
Jackson, Robert H. Indian Population Decline: The Missions of Northwestern new Spain, 1687-1840 (University of New Mexico Press, 1994)
Rawls, James J. Indians of California: The Changing Image (University of Oklahoma Press, 1984)
In the early 1820s, the independence of Mexico had little impact on the mission culture of California; there were enough problems close to home for the Mexican governors to deal with. While Mexico had granted citizenship and protection to Indians under the Plan of Iguala, it continued the Spanish tradition of viewing indigenous people as the lowest possible class of people without the right to hold property. In the remote territory of Alta California, the mission economy continued.
Little by little, Mexican colonists moved into Alta California and occupied land granted to them by the remote Mexican government, gradually establishing a secular society that was independent, and jealous, of the mission society. Then, finally, between 1834-36, under increasing pressures from secular interests throughout Mexico, the government moved to secularize the missions and seize all their properties. With this sanction from the central government, secularization proceeded swiftly, in Alta California, at the hands of local colonists and secular authorities. Rather than dividing mission properties into equal shares for the clerical authorities and mission Indians, however, the Mexican colonists sacked the missions and divided the properties among themselves. For the mission Indians, who had actually made the transition to Spanish Catholic culture and who had lost connections with tribal villages and indigenous ways, it was a disaster; return to a natural indigenous lifeway was rarely successful. There was little left but to become feudal laborers in colonial villages and on Mexican ranchos. It is estimated that 15,000 of the 53,600 baptized Indians remained alive and in this precarious condition in 1836.
In spite of the fact that Mexicanization of California proceeded slowly, it was a very damaging period to California Indians. The rapid decline of Indian populations along the coast led the missionaries to seek neophytes from increasingly distant regions of the interior. Recruitments came closer to military campaigns than ever before; and the usefulness of Indians as a cheap labor supply became thoroughly confused with the mission of Catholic conversion. The mission economy of Alta California simply required Indian labor.
After secularization, the economy of California was entirely based on the Mexican ranchos, which employed a system of peonage imported from Mexico. It was a particularly harsh form of feudalism, without the veneer of a righteous mission of Christian conversion and bordering on slavery. Indians living close to Mexican occupation found that their natural environment had been so far degraded that their only survival option was laboring in the ranchos. But their wages were carefully maintained at survival's minimum, only, and there was no prospect of bettering themselves. They were often paid much of their wage in alcohol, at week's end, which kept them immobilized until they had to return at the week's beginning.
Throughout the last decade of Mexican rule, an ever wider population of California's indigenous people were being incorporated into this sphere, while coastal people, who had suffered under the missions for decades, were beginning to disappear entirely. The distribution of land into ranchos was pressing eastward from El Camino Real across the coastal mountains and into the Central Valley. Settlements were being established in the Delta region as far northeast as Sacramento. This meant that military expeditions to acquire neophytes and, later, military expeditions to acquire laborers were penetrating increasingly into the tribal territories of not only the Central Valley but also those of the western Sierran foothills.
The Indians were not just affected by the kidnaping and abuse of their people; but were rapidly being deprived of their natural food supply, as Hispanos, Europeans, and Americans crowded into the area, threatening natural plants and game animals. Indians retaliated periodically for the abuses. But they were forced to adapt their own food seeking activities also and this had an even more major impact on their relations with Whites. As Indians sought food by raiding cattle from the ranchos, small bands of Mexican military and volunteers raided Indian villages with savage vengeance. Without any doubt, cause and effect became entirely lost in this situation, and everyone had a "righteous claim" for doing violence against the others.
It is estimated that about 6% of the population decline during this period stemmed from military encounters; but much more stemmed from the continuing influx of European diseases. Smallpox first appeared in 1833 and produced major epidemics among the Pomo, Wappo, and Wintun in 1838, the Miwok in 1844, and the Pomos again in 1850. An unknown disease among the Wintun, Maidu, Miwok, and Yokuts in 1833 wiped out 4500 people, 10% of their populations. In all, diseases are estimated as causing 60% of the population decline to the end of the Mexican period, and California indigenous population had fallen to a total of only 150,000 people.
For Mexico itself, it became progressively more difficult to maintain control over the northwestern territories, with Americans, who had purchased France's claim to the Mississippi watershed, moving westward through the Great Basin in increasing numbers.
Rawls, James J. Indians of California: The Changing Image (University of Oklahoma
Hurtado, Albert L. Indian Survival on the California Frontier (Yale University Press, 1988)
Heizer, Robert F. The Destruction of California Indians (University of Nebraska Press, 1974)
Cook, Sherburne F. The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization (University of California Press, 1976)
In point of fact, the United States military had already seized control of Alta California in 1846 and had established its base of operations in Monterey. After Mexico's cession of territories, Anglo-Europeans and Americans moved quickly to promote California statehood, which was officially granted by 1850. California entered the Union as a non-slave state but, as we will see, only Black Africans were considered relevant to the Union's slavery issue.
Gold was discovered at Sutter's mill, in Coloma, by James Marshall, in January 1848. Sutter and Marshall moved rapidly to secure their claim on the gold-bearing territories and they did this by attempting to negotiate a treaty with the local Indians, the Nisenan Maidu. This was one of the first treaties attempted with Indians in California. However, when Sutter filed this treaty with the new American military government, in Monterey, he was told that "the United States government did not recognize the right of Indians to lease, sell, or rent their lands."
By the time that California had become a state, in September 1850, the rush for gold had brought hundreds of thousands of people into the territory and California Indians, for the first time ever, had become a minority. Also, for the first time ever, the entire population of Indians was threatened. This was no infiltration from the Pacific Coast inland; it was a pervasive, aggressive appropriation of the entire territory and all of its resources. As easy gold strikes were depleted, people turned to farming, ranching, or logging. A multitude of projects blossomed.
The intruding population of gold-seeking miners was hostile toward the Indians, except where they could secure Indian labor for their mines. The wave of Gold-Rush immigration brought the usual burden of European diseases, to which the indigenous population had no immunity, but it also brought environmental degradation on an unprecedented scale. Rivers that had provided a clear entry to spawning salmon from eternity were becoming so choked with debris that the salmon were dying off without reproduction. Ranching and lumber operations soon added to the degradation. The environmental impact on the state was overwhelming.
While the pre-mission population of 310,000 indigenous people had dropped to 200,000 during the mission period and dropped to 150,000 or fewer by the end of the Mexican period, it plummeted to less than 30,000 in the twenty years of Gold-Rush California, to 1870. Meanwhile, the population of non-indigenous people, still a minority in 1848, had shot to 700,000 by 1870. In the aftermath, many California tribes were declared extinct and almost none had successfully preserved their cultural ways of life. For most, even the retention of a cultural memory, for traditional purposes and social order, was close to impossible. (Recall that these were oral histories, completely dependent upon survival of old masters and training of young people who would maintain the traditions.)
As constituted, the State of California made no recognition of Indians as citizens with civil rights; nor did the new state treat Indians in any way as sovereign people; indeed, a majority of Whites in the State hoped for the early removal of the Indian population. The attitude of California citizens and governors was shaped by a combination of early Spanish assumptions and American beliefs imported from the East, where the concept of "removal" had dominated policy for many decades. But "removal" had always before meant removal-to-the-west, to "Indian Territory." In California, there was nothing to the west!
To the State of California, there were really only two concerns regarding the indigenous people of the state --- protection of white settlers and miners from attack and loss of property and regulation of Indians as a labor force. In April of 1850, the State's first legislature passed An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. While the State carefully prohibited slavery of any form, it embraced a system in which any "able-bodied Indians were liable to arrest on the complaint of any resident if they could not support themselves or were found loitering or strolling about or were leading an immoral or profligate course of life. If it was determined by proper authority that an Indian was a vagrant, he or she could be hired out within twenty-four hours for the highest price for any term not exceeding four months." (Rawls, 86) In effect, all Indians, including (perhaps, especially) children, faced indentured servitude effected through a simple procedure of arrest and assignment through any local justice-of-the-peace. Once indentured, the term limitation was easily (and always) exceeded. The result was a profitable "slave trade" in able-bodied Indian men, women, and children throughout Northern California. Children were readily bought and sold, for household work; and women were purchased for both household work and sexual liaisons.
The Federal government, however, had a long-standing relationship with Indians throughout the growing United States, and it accepted some degree of responsibility for their safety and well being. Since the Mexican administration of Alta California had at least technically extended citizenship to all Indians, this placed the Federal government in a position of opposition to State policy. In consequence, State and Federal relationships with Indians were always at odds, and the Federal role of protection was always difficult to realize across the great distance separating California from Washington.
Several Indian sub-agencies had already been created through the military administration of California prior to statehood. However, in 1851, new Federal agents were sent to make treaties with the Indians. Three agents were selected for California; these were Redick McKee, George W. Barbour, and O. M. Wozencraft. Unfortunately, there was no appreciation, in the East, for the number of tribes and tribelets resident in California or for the multitude of languages spoken there; little of the previous Federal experience with Indians was relevant to making treaties in California. And furthermore, the treaties attempted an innovation in Federal Indian policy. Rather than being "peace treaties" that attempted to guarantee safe and non-hostile removal to other lands, these treaties attempted to locate reservations of land within the State itself.
While the three agents "successfully" negotiated eighteen treaties with groups of California Indians, including substantial reservation lands for their occupation and more substantial surrender of traditional lands for white settlement, later studies have shown that their lack of experience with California Indians was telling. Heizer and Kroeber, a century later, reported that of the 139 signatory groups, 67 are identifiable as tribelets, 45 are merely village names, 14 are duplicates of names heard and spelled somewhat differently without the commissioners being aware of the fact, and 13 are either unidentifiable or personal names.
Completed early in 1852, the treaties went to the United States Senate for ratification in July and ratification was denied, based on the overwhelming strength of opposition coming from the State of California itself. The treaties had set aside eighteen reserves of land for the exclusive use of the Indian groups (a total of 11,700 square miles) and had promised various kinds of Federal aid (school, farming instruction and equipment, seed, cloth, etc.) as well as specific rights to maintain traditional hunting and fishing practices. In proportion, the amount of land surrendered to White occupation and use was huge; but Californians were quick to argue that the land reserved was too much and too good for use of indigenous people. The persistent view of Californians was that indigenous people possessed no culture worthy of any claim to habitable land and that they should be disposed of in any convenient way.
The Indian tribes were never informed of the Senate's decision against ratification and an unusual injunction of secrecy kept the treaty documents out of public scrutiny until 1905. With no legal treaties, however, the Federal government was still left with the problem of protecting the indigenous population of California; and it was becoming extremely clear that the Indians would be exterminated if nothing was done. The Federal solution, taken by Congress in 1853 and 1855, was to establish seven military reservations where Indians could be placed, isolated from contact with Whites, fed, and trained to become farmers and stock growers. The first of these was located at Tejon Pass in 1853, and the last was located in San Diego County as the Mission Indian reservation, in 1887. Among these was a reservation in Hoopa Valley, established in 1864, under the guise of a "treaty of peace and friendship between the United States Government and the Hoopa, South Fork, Redwood, and Grouse Creek Indians." But the Hoopa military reservation was actually established as a part of the same Congressional program and was not respected by the Federal government as a treatied reservation granting sovereignty to the Hupa people.
No treaties were ever successfully negotiated and ratified between the Federal government and the indigenous people of California, though the Federal government continued to struggle with the problem of protecting Indian rights. In 1928, after the failed treaties had finally been uncovered, an act of Congress allowed Indians to sue the Federal government for the lost compensation involved in the 18 unratified treaties. The basis of compensation would be the reservation lands promised, not the vast amount of lands surrendered. The suit was prosecuted by the Attorney General for the State of California and was settled in 1944 with a total award of $17,053,941. However, the Federal government claimed to have spent $12,029,099 for the protection of California Indians and deducted this amount from the award. In 1950 Congress authorized a payment of $150 to each person "on the corrected and updated roster of California Indians prepared under the original provisions of the act."
In many ways, it would seem that the Indians' plight was given up to fate by the early 1860s and the Federal system of establishing reservations withdrew into a skeleton operation that was mainly aimed at merely incarcerating Indians "for their own good." By the 1870s, the Indian population of California had almost hit bottom and the majority of Anglo-European Californians no longer viewed Indians as a problem. Indians had very largely disappeared from view. Ironically, the great Indian Wars of the Plains were just beginning and would continue until 1890. The Rush to California had left the majority of American Indians isolated on the Prairies and Plains, in the old "Indian Territory." The dissection of land west of the Mississippi was triggered by the Homestead Act of 1865 and was further accelerated by gold discoveries in South Dakota and Colorado. As the reserves of Indian land in the West were concentrated and carved apart and as Indians were moved from one place to another to meet the convenience of American farmers and cattlemen, the American public finally began to take note of the Indians' fate. On the eve of the beginnings of serious anthropological study and reconstruction of indigeous cultures, a new social and political era began for American Indians. It was the era of reform movements.
Reformers accepted reservation life as a fact and, equally, accepted the fact that only reservations in relatively desolate areas and on useless land would be tolerable to the majority of White settlers. It was becoming obvious that American Indians would not be able to survive in their traditional lifeways. Environmental degradation in California had proceeded so far that hunting and gathering had become impossible in most areas of the state. Reformers naturally assumed that the only route to long-term survival of Native Americans was through cultural assimilation and, in their minds, this meant the destruction of tribal authority and culture. This position remained the official policy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs well into the Twentieth Century.
Cultural assimilation meant teaching Indians to embrace Christianity and to become farmers who could raise more than needed for subsistence and could, consequently, sell their over-production on the open market for a profit. Ultimately, this meant destruction of tribal authority and sovereignty; Indians were to become individual citizens of the United States. Christian missionaries moved into Indian enclaves and onto the reservations; indeed, the Christian denominations competed with each other to win Native American souls to their own beliefs. At the same time and very much in the understanding that assimilation was possible only for the very young, the BIA oversaw creation of Indian schools. Most of these were boarding schools which provided separation of Indian children from their families. Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded in 1879 by Richard Pratt, a staunch advocate of immediate assimilation, set the process in motion. Carlisle was followed by boarding schools at Santa Fe, Carson, and Phoenix, all in 1890, as well as others, later on. Calling these institutions "reforms" remains ironic since, for a society whose own Constitution provided for freedom of speech and religion, the BIA was actually overseeing a massive experiment in brain washing in which Native American religions were deemed illegal and in which little children were forbidden to speak their own languages. The boarding school project became a scandalous incarceration of at least one-fourth of the Indian children who grew up from the 1890s to the 1930s, depriving them of family relationships and warmth as well as access to their cultural heritage.
Others conceived of the route to assimilation as a political process that would inevitably require termination of tribal sovereignty and deliverance of Native Americans to the laws of the United States. As early as 1871, an amendment to the annual Indian Appropriations Bill legally revoked tribal sovereignty and placed Native Americans under jurisdiction of the United States, blocking further treatment as independent nations. Federal government could now simply legislate for Native American communities; and the implicit message was that Indians must make swift progress toward participating in this process by becoming citizens.
It is within this framework that one must view the General Allotment Act of 1887, also called the Dawes Severalty Act after its sponsor Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts. While the Dawes Act allowed the President to move slowly in selecting Native American reservations that were ripe for allotment, its practical implications were ominous. Each adult head of family was allotted 160 acres; single adults were allotted 80 acres; and single minors were allotted 40 acres. While Indians could choose their own land, the President had the right to assign it within four years. Individuals who accepted allotment became citizens and fell under the laws of the state in which they resided. The allotment was given within a twenty-five year trust which prevented sale.
While the Dawes Act seemed to provide exactly the conveyance from tribalism to citizenship that reformers had wanted, it also provided the legal key to acquisition of Indian land that White settlers wanted. The final provision of the Dawes Act was that "surplus land," all remaining reservation land that had not been allotted to individual Indians living on the reservation, could be sold to settlers. In 1881, Indians had owned 155,632,312 acres of land on reservations. As allotment proceeded and surplus land was sold out to non-Indians, this figure was reduced to 104,319,349 acres, in 1890, and 77,865,373 acres, in 1900.
While, initially, Indians were prohibited from selling or leasing their allotted lands, these prohibitions eroded away rapidly. They had been put in place in order to guarantee that allotted Indians would move toward self-sufficiency through agriculture or cattle grazing. However, much of the land was useless or Indians were poorly prepared. It was in their own immediate interest and definitely the interests of White farmers, ranchers, or settlers to lease or sell their land. Hence, even more Indian land disappeared, in the interests of immediate survival. By 1907, even the Five Civilized Tribes, initially exempted from allotment, had passed through the process, lost most of their promised Indian Territory, and become citizens of the newly created State of Oklahoma.
In California, allotment had a far smaller effect since the number of reservations was small, in the 1880s. In fact, the problem was quite the opposite; California Indians lacked treaties and reservations and, for that matter, much attention from the Federal government. Many of California's Indians, especially in the southern portion of the state, were living in small bands, attempting to survive through agriculture, residing on public or private lands either by permission, habit, or neglect. When Americans took an interest in the land, the Indians were simply evicted, usually with force and ignoring any improvements they had made.
No single person is more important to Indian reform in California than Helen Hunt Jackson. Born in 1830 to an academic family at Amherst College, Massachusetts, and only recently remarried to a Colorado banker, William Jackson, Helen Hunt Jackson became a passionate advocate for the Indians, in 1879, when she learned about the plight of the Ponca Indians in South Dakota. In 1881, her book A Century of Dishonor told the sad story of the Ponca, and Jackson used it to lobby actively for reformed Federal Indian policies. With the successful completion of these efforts and an invitation to write about California in Century Magazine, Jackson arrived in Los Angeles in 1881. She traveled widely in Southern California and what she found there was the wreckage of the Mission Indians, remnants of all the Southern California tribes who had been missionized, secularized, and then abandoned to mere survival. In 1882, Helen Hunt Jackson and Abbot Kinney were appointed special Federal agents and were assigned the task of visiting Mission Indians with the purpose of locating lands in the public domain that could be designated as reservations for them. It was during this period that Jackson wrote her protest novel, Ramona, dramatizing the tragic treatment of the Mission Indians.
Jackson and Kinney filed a powerful report with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. This represented a detailed study of Indians in the three southern most counties and especially undertook an appraisal of the dismal condition of their claims to the lands that they had pastured and farmed since the era of Mexican desecularization. Their final report and recommendations were submitted to U. S. Indian Commissioner Hiram Price in January 1884; however, legislation based on their recommendations failed to pass Congress. While Helen Hunt Jackson died, in 1885, her efforts were carried onward by a collection of reform groups, including the Women's National Indian Association, the Indian Rights Association, and the Lake Mohonk Conference. Thanks to their persistence and the long process of re-initiating legislation, annually, the Act for the Relief of the Mission Indians in the State of California was finally passed in January 1891. Congress passed enabling legislation early in 1892. The actual tasks of surveying and exchanging land and the granting of legal titles lingered on into the Twentieth Century.
One final twist of White-Indian relations throughout the period lies in a movement of the 1920s to transfer authority and responsibility out of Federal hands and into State hands. The movement became focused and intensified after passage of the California Indian Jurisdiction Act in 1928 and the transfer from Federal trust status to State jurisdiction became know, ironically, as "termination." Over the thirty years, from 1928 to 1958, there were aggressive attempts made by both Federal and State agencies to terminate California Indian reservations and rancherias. In 1958, Congress passed the California Indian "rancheria bill" which allowed forty-one rancherias to voluntarily leave Federal trust status and enter the status of "fee patent lands" under state jurisdiction. Only about five other rancherias have voluntarily terminated since 1958. In all, about half of Californias reservations and rancherias remain under Federal trusts.
Rawls, James J. Indians of California: The Changing Image (University of Oklahoma
Hurtado, Albert L. Indian Survival on the California Frontier (Yale University Press, 1988)
Forbes, Jack Native Americans of California and Nevada (Naturegraph Publishers, 1982)
Heizer, Robert F.(ed) Federal Concern about Conditions of California Indians, 1853-1913 (Ballena Press, 1979
Prucha, Francis Paul Documents of United States Indian Policy (University of Nebraska Press, 1990)
Of course, non-reservation life is as important as reservation life, throughout the United States, but it is especially important in California since reservations came very late to California. Non-reservation Indians tended to remain in rural areas of the State but have increasingly migrated into the large urban centers. One of the biggest problems, here, is cultural isolation and lack of adequate support.
The question today, more than a century after California Indian populations reached their lowest level, is whether anything has happened to change the situation of their livelihood. And the answer is that many changes have occurred, though their situation often remains tense. While advocates of assimilation remain, the movement was significantly displaced, in the early part of this century, and there is a remarkable renaissance of Native American cultures, today. Some tribes have made huge strides in breaking into modern economic strategies and are investing in long-term tribal institutions for health care, education, and economic investment. Perhaps most remarkable of all, tribes are going into court and winning cases. (See, for instance, the Native American Rights Fund.) One of the most remarkable instances thus far was the litigation for and ultimate return of spiritually significant Blue Lake to the people of the pueblo at Taos.
How have these changes come about? One of the first factors and, ultimately, one of the most important nationally was rising unification of Native American tribes. By their very nature, the tribes had always been small, separate, and sometimes mutually competitive, even hostile. The common Euro-American strategy was to keep them divided and, thus, overwhelm them. The greatest American military disasters of the late 19th Century occurred when Indians achieved a higher degree of unification and mutual commitment. Californians, on the other hand, were never in the position of uniting in war and their tribes tended to be even more strongly entrenched in ecological niches of the state. While Native Americans from widely divergent backgrounds began to work together, in the beginning of the 20th Century, Californians have been somewhat slower in doing this.
Two of the earliest national media of unification were the Society of American Indians and the Native American Church. While several organizations, like the Indian Rights Association, had existed in the 19th Century, they were predominantly non-Native organizations motivated by social reform. The Society of American Indians, founded in 1911, was expressly organized as a Native American association motivated by the need to express a united voice and its offices were established in Washington, D.C., where they could monitor the operations of Congress and the BIA. The leadership of the Society was a group of well educated Native Americans and the general theme of its early annual conferences was development of tribal economies and self-help through better education. Nevertheless, the Society of American Indians ultimately fell victim to factionalism promoted on the double axes of peyote use and assimilation.
Developing at approximately the same time, the Native American Church was considerably more successful in remaining an effective long-term lobbying organization; it continues in existence today. The Native American Church grew out of the peyote cults which developed during the last quarter of the 19th Century, along with the Ghost Dance, the Dream Dance, and the Sun Dance, as reactions to the extremes of cultural stress. All were attempts to revitalize indigenous spiritualism; some, like the Ghost Dance, made exaggerated promises of salvation from European domination. While these movements were, needless to say, frightening to antagonists of the Native Americans, they were no more popular among Euro-American reformers, who saw them as counter-movements to assimilation and embarrassing indications of ineducability.
In 1965, Congress declared the religious use of peyote under the auspices of the Native American Church exempt from Federal drug enforcement. While it is a success story, the Native American Church was rather clearly successful for exceptional reasons, namely the narrow focus on the right to use peyote in spiritual practices, and never commanded the interest or support of the majority of Native Americans.
While the Supreme Court had ruled, in 1884, that the Fourteenth Amendment did not automatically make Indians citizens of the United States, many Indians had become citizens nevertheless. This was possible by marriage to U.S. citizens, by military service, by allotment, and by other means. The First World War had brought many Indians into citizenship through military service. In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting all Native Americans citizenship in the United States. Indians automatically became citizens of the states they inhabited and this precipitated a variety of issues regarding jurisdiction over reservations. In a succession of litigations, it was established that Native American citizenship did not terminate Federal responsibility for Indians nor did it offer jurisdiction over reservations to the states.
One of the great reformers of the 1920s and '30s was John Collier who became Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in 1933, under Roosevelt. Collier had emerged as a leader in the protection of Indian rights in the early 1920s when there was a resurgence of attacks on Indian land holdings. Under President Warren Harding's administration there was a significant move to appropriate Indian lands and convey them to non-Indians who might use them more effectively for the benefits of modern technological society. This was especially dramatic in the case of attempts to alienate a substantial portion of pueblo lands in New Mexico. The movement was accompanied by familiar attempts to suppress participation in tribal customs "unacceptable to the standards of European American society." Fortunately, public opinion was effectively amassed against the forces of the Harding Administration, and the worst offenses were thwarted. John Collier was one of those responsible. He organized the American Indian Defense Association in 1923 with an ambitious agenda, "the end of land allotments in severalty, improvement of educational and health services, legislation allowing Native Americans to participate in decisions affecting their welfare, establishment of tribal governments, and recognition of tribal customs."
Under Roosevelt's Administration, Collier was the author of the Indians' version of New Deal social policy. Throughout his first year of office, he worked to reform the Bureau of Indian Affairs, especially by moving it more toward an advisory, rather than supervisory, agency. He furthered Native American participation in Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps and also established the Indian Emergency Conservation Work program. Collier promoted education through public and reservation schools and discouraged the assimilationist boarding schools. But the real heart of the Indian New Deal was the Indian Reorganization Act, which passed in 1934, a testimony to Collier's patience and skill as a negotiator.
The Indian Reorganization Act strongly reflected Collier's belief that Native Americans should decide assimilation on their own terms and that they should retrieve their communal wisdom and authority. As submitted to Congress, the IRA included four sections. First, it allowed Native Americans on reservations to establish local tribal governments and tribal corporations for economic development. Second, it provided training in education, public health, law enforcement, and resource management, so that reservations could be improved. Third, it terminated the Dawes Act and provided a path through which allotted lands could merge with community land to re-form communally owned and administered reservations. And fourth, it established a Court of Indian Affairs, which would hold jurisdiction over crimes committed on reservation and issues relating to any Native American.
Collier faced enormous odds in gaining approval of this Act. Within the Euro-American population there were rigidly divided sides, including those harboring economic self-interests, who were always opposed to stabilizing the reservations, and reformers and assimilationists who were not ready to admit that these policies had failed. Within the Native American population there were equally strong divisions, including well assimilated Indians, those who feared for their own self-interests, and many who saw specific aspects of the Act as inconsistent with their own tribal aims or values. Like most Federal programs, as viewed through Native American eyes, the IRA was either short of being effective or way overbearing. For some suspicious Euro-Americans of the '30s, Collier was running dangerously close to Communism in his enthusiasm over Native American communalism.
Nevertheless, with only partial support from both communities, the Indian Reorganization Act was passed, though heavily amended. The existence of an Indian Affairs Court was lost outright and various budgetary cuts were suffered, having some impact on securing and developing reservation lands. The largest areas of loss lay in specific regulations relating to the consolidation of tribal land and in provision for tribe-by-tribe ratification of the act. The latter suffered from extreme ambiguities since tribal organization and authority was diverse. Oddly enough, Native Americans living in Alaska and Oklahoma (former "Indian Territory") were not considered under the provisions of the IRA and had to be brought under it separately, within the following year. For all of Collier's hard work and in the end, "less than 40 percent of all Native Americans were eligible for IRA benefits from the beginning." (Olson and Wilson, 1984; 122) Many Native Americans did not live on reservations; many tribes or tribelets were not recognized by the BIA (a condition of IRA benefits); and many recognized tribes with reservations still did not see ratification of the IRA as advantageous to them. Symbolic of the diversity of dissent was the Act's rejection by the Navajo, America's largest tribe.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the IRA lay in the fact that Collier arranged to protect it through a legal opinion written by Felix Cohen, which anchored an understanding of relations with Indian tribes in Chief Justice John Marshall's words of 1830-2. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester vs. Georgia were two crucial cases in developing the legal foundation of Native American rights. Not only was the legal relationship of the Cherokees and the State of Georgia at issue, but perforce so was the legal relationship of any Indian nation and the United States, since this had to be decided in order to proceed with litigation. It was within these opinions that Marshall described Indian tribes as "domestic dependent nations," meaning that they were separate sovereignties with respect to the United States yet dependent and domestic to the United States, hence, falling short of being international entities. In reaching back to Marshall, Cohen ignored the 1871 move to terminate Indian sovereignty; this opinion has been the basis of virtually all tribal litigation with the Federal government since 1934.
There is really no question today about Indians choosing their own natural economic basis, whether on or off the reservation, for the American culture and political regime leaves no opportunity for anything but submission to American economic realities. The question, then, is how to remain "Indian" in a world whose political and economic determinants all belong to a non-Indian regime. While there are clearly differences from one group to another, and from individual-to-individual, what we are witnessing today is the survival of Indian spirit, that is, the survival of a need to be Indian and to preserve, therefore, at least the social culture and, perhaps, some portion of the political culture.
While no treaties negotiated with California Indians were ever approved, the treaty-relationships, Congressional acts, and court opinions established between the Federal government and Native Americans elsewhere are naturally extended into California as the legal basis of Native American rights and relationships in this state. Also, the suit for damages stemming from the loss of the treaties of 1851, implicitly accepted the treaty rights of California Indians. As Native Americans throughout the United States have learned to employ the legal system with increasing effectiveness, this legal status, as a "domestic dependent sovereignty," has proved to be strong. The greatest remaining problems with respect to the legal status of Indians in California are, first of all, documentation for all of the tribes and tribelets, qualifying for the Federal Registry, and consequently being in a position to assert full rights as Native tribal organizations. Beyond problems of legal status, there are several more critical issues. One of these is an urgent need to mount an active fight to rescue Native languages (the keys to cultural integrity) which are perilously close to extinction. Another is an ongoing need to provide education, health care, employment counselling, and other social services to a highly dispersed Native population. And finally, California's reservations and rancherias need to negotiate successfully to protect their environments.
The issue of tribal government is complicated in California. Political organization in California's indigenous cultures was often rather informal and, even where formal, it was usually not an organization that demanded conformity to a central authority. The chief was more nearly a cultural icon than legislator. On the other hand, American political philosophy is based on institutionalization of authority and power; and America anticipates the same basic political structure in any sovereign society with which it has relations. This anticipation has always placed a burden on Indian tribes to conform politically just as they have been forced to conform economically. For most tribes in California, this is a very difficult burden that flies in the face of tradition. In California's northwest, for instance, there were long-standing problems because the Federal government simply placed a land-grant for the Yurok into the overall jurisdiction of the Hupa reservation. While the Hupa had met the Federal standard for tribal organization, the Yurok had not. Only a decade ago, did the Yurok finally satisfy the Federal standards so that the two reservations could be separated and self-governed; but throughout this time, the Yurok were prevented from pursuing Federally available benefits and defending themselves in legal cases.
Reservation economy, as noted earlier, is deprived of the natural resources that traditional cultures could count upon. Consequently, Native Americans find themselves in a desperate situation where simply feeding themselves is difficult; many remain dependent upon Federal aid for food, health care, and education. But it is clear to all Native American groups that breaking the cycle of dependency is essential to long-term survival. The question, then, is what resources are actually available on reservations and rancherias to provide a basis for economic development --- employment, purchasing power, self-financed education, and development of comprehensive community health care. The traditional resources attached to any body of land, of course, are forests, minerals, water, fish, game, and perhaps tourism; but each of these presents problems when looking toward economic development in today's world.
Logging and mining both require substantial capital outlays for which Native American tribes are not prepared. Thus, it becomes tempting to develop these resources by inviting outside companies to come onto Indian land. This, of course, opens up huge possibilities for fraud and there is no adequate regulation of how the profits paid to tribes will be distributed or used for the benefit of the community. In addition, both logging and mining usually involve environmental degradation.
Since water, fish, and game are all resources that transcend specific boundaries, they all come under state and Federal jurisdiction. California tribes tend to lose water resources to external diversions rather than being in a position to develop them or even defend their own water-use rights. While game may provide some small and diminishing level of individual sustenance, it is not available for commercial development. Nor has fishing been an easy resource to develop. Fish and Game authorities, while willing to allow fishing for individual sustenance and cultural continuity, have continued to block commercial use of fishing as an economic opportunity for Native Americans. Then, too, the major fish resource of California natives was the salmon which has been so badly threatened by interior land development --- mining, logging, cattle grazing, and damming of the rivers --- that their availability even for individual sustenance is questionable. Since most Indian property in the State is not located on prime land, tourism will probably have a minimal impact. (What if Miwoks had been left in possession of Yosemite Valley?!)
Thus the predominant question for any group of Native Americans is how to use their land and unique rights to create an economic basis from which to provide education, health care, and social development on reservations. It is ironic that all of the new economic opportunities being tested by Native Americans, today, capitalize on the two most obvious cultural traits of Euro-Americans, greed and waste. It was the Euro-American thirst for fast riches through gold, more than any other factor, that led Americans to violate Indian land and Indian lives. And, today, Native American communities are beginning to capitalize on the same basic greed by offering high-stakes gambling on reservation land. Several tribes have moved from 80% unemployment to 100% employment, with additional moneys available for development of social institutions and long-term investment. Of course, while state and Federal governments ought to be delighted by the fact that Native Americans are freeing themselves from the cycle of dependency, they are also jealous of Indian profit-taking in any form. Foresighted Native American leaders are not planning on the gambling boom being available to them as a permanent economic opportunity.
It is also the case, as we have long seen, that Euro-American society is the most wasteful society in the world, in stark contrast to the conservative indigenous societies that they replaced. America is rapidly turning itself into a landfill and this has been dramatized by several emergency situations where Eastern cities have found themselves temporarily without any place to put daily mountains of garbage. But beyond garbage production, there is a frightening accumulation, in America, of toxic materials --- partially used or completely unused excesses --- that need to be disposed of and that threaten air, land, and water if not disposed of properly. And beyond the merely toxic materials, lie the truly horrifying supply of nuclear wastes, lethal materials that we continue to be lethal for thousands of years. Given the state of panic that American society is now facing with regard to its problem of wastes, it is tempting for Native Americans to offer reservation lands, at a price, for American dumping grounds. It is even more tempting to offer certain deviations from strict control under Environmental Protection Agency rules, which do not presently have jurisdiction on reservation lands. But the cultural contradictions involved for Native Americans are obvious and strong.
There is, of course, the ever-present possibility of capitalizing on Native American culture itself through its artistic development and evolution. Individual artists, like Peter Calnimptewa, a Hopi kachina carver, have achieved such recognition for their excellence and inventiveness that they can demand a very high price for their works. But tribal organizations have also been able to promote their arts collectively, rather than just individually; an example, perhaps, is the collective promotion and sale of Zuni stone carvings, or fetiches. The weakness of the arts as a basis for economic development is, of course, its complete dependence on the promotion of individuals and, also, its complete vulnerability to the support --- aesthetic and financial --- of Euro-American patrons. While all Native American cultures were rich in artistic sensitivity, not all of these arts were expressed in areas that Euro-Americans are ready to appreciate. Baskets, ceramics, woven rugs, silver jewelry, and carvings (in wood and stone) from the Southwest continue to offer economic opportunities to these people. Carved masks and beautifully ornamented boxes from the Northwest are also viable products. But California arts suffer from lack of patronage, as do most Indian arts in the residue of the country. California's most impressive art --- basketry --- almost died out from lack of transfer to the young, a situation now being rectified by some enthusiastic individuals as well as the California Indian Basketweavers Association.
One way for the individual to approach the choices for economic development is, of course, to leave the reservation, seek higher education, and secure a Euro-American-style career. While for the individual, this may be a path to survival, we must ask whether it represents a viable collective opportunity. Individuals living off of the reservation find themselves increasingly distanced from their indigenous cultures. They can return to the reservation for visits and they can attend the growing number of Pow Wows and festivals around the country, but is this enough cultural reinforcement to maintain their heritage as Indians? Indeed, when a couple begins to bring up children outside the reservation, how can they maintain and pass onward any real sense of their culture? Interestingly enough, the stress on cultural survival is so strongly felt that Indians of all tribal affiliations have begun to share their concerns and have created networks for communication. There is a vital presence of Native Americans on the World Wide Web and in electronic mail distribution lists and news groups. In California, today, the revival of indigenous cultures is in full swing and one can find a wide variety of exhibitions and gatherings through which both Native people and non-Native people can learn dances, stories, songs, language, and technology. The calendar of events published quarterly in News from Native Califronia is a powerful testimony to this.
Interestingly, as Native Americans continue to become dispersed through the country and as they strive to keep themselves in communication, they are becoming a political force that questions the Euro-American power dominance. Tribal separatism was a weakness that allowed Euro-Americans to trample over one tribe after another as well as to sets tribes against each other. But tribal communication and unity are forces to be reckoned with. Native Americans, over the years, have learned how to use the American system of courts; and precedent-setting cases have created a sound basis for Indian rights claims. But Indians are also finding themselves united and vocal in political conventions and at polling places.
Prucha, Francis Paul Documents of United States Indian Policy (University of Nebraska
Parman, Donald L. Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century (Indiana University Press, 1994)
Olson, James S. And Raymond Wilson Native Americans in the Twentieth Century (University of Illinois Press, 1984)
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