Striking It Rich In The Gold Country: Jackson's Miwuks

1452 words - 6 pages

If you are driving down Hwy 49 towards the city of Jackson you can still see a tall, rusty, mining head in the distance. It is a remnant of Jacksons gold mining past, standing over the Kennedy Mine like an ancient guardian protecting it's lair. The mining head was once used to lower miners into the depths of the earth as they searched for the precious metal, but now it serves as a tourist attraction and historical landmark for the city of Jackson which prides itself on it's gold mining past. This past is also reflected in the architecture on Main Street Jackson which is reminiscent of the storefronts of the late 1800's with signs hanging in front of each establishment, stenciled and painted onto the large glass windows displays. It is a city tied to it's history and built around the “gold country” motiff. However, if you turn onto Hwy 88 and head north a few miles you will run into another reminder of Jacksons past; the Jackson Rancheria Indian Casino and the owners, the Jackson band of Miwuks.
The Jackson Rancheria Casino is built upon the Miwuk reservation which lies in northern Jackson and borders the city of Pine Grove. An acorn in front of two oak leaves crossed behind it is proudly displayed as it's logo. It is reflective of another culture that existed long before the gold miners rushed into Jackson in hopes to strike it rich. A culture which – like many other Native American cultures – has had to deal with the consequences of settlers and the gold rush, which included racism, displacement and government policies that included slavery and genocide. Despite this past the Jackson band of Miwuks have preservered, and moved forward and become independent, self-reliant and have used the casino in positive way by providing jobs, donating to the local community, and ultimately using their money and prestige to help restore and protect part of their cultural heritage for all natives in the area.
To understand how these two cultures became entwined with each other we need to understand how Jackson came into being in the first place. It was during the gold rush in the mid 1800's Jackson became a popular spot for mining as well a rest area for prospectors between Mokulumne hill, Sacramento and Stockton. It was originally named Bottileas or “Bottles” because – as story goes – for the large amount of bottles that collected around the watering holes left by miners(). It was later renamed Jackson's Creek in in 1849 after Colonal Alden Appolas Moore Jackson, and settled as a mining town after gold quartz was found in the Argonaut mine in 1851(). A post office and stagecoach helped bring it into prominence, and it incorporated in 1905(). The town finally ended it's long mining career in 1942 when President Roosevelt signed an executive order shutting down most of the mines in the area, abruptly putting an end to operations(). However through all of the history of mining, the indingionous Miwoks of the area had already felt the consequences of...

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