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The Disappearance Of Native Americans In California

1642 words - 7 pages

“To discover, understand, and encounter the cultures and intricate natures of the California Indian people, it is necessary to search the past” –Nancy Wahl. Tracing back in California history, Spanish explorers, commanded by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, found the tip of what is now Baja California in the year 1533 and named it "California" after a mythical island in a popular Spanish novel. It is evident that from the time Spanish monarchs set foot in California, the world as Native Americans knew it was never the same again. The late 1700s initiated and marked the colonization of Spaniards in the “Golden State” which in turn provoked the massive persecution and extermination of Native American population as well as the disappearance of Native heritage and culture. As a result, the recurring despairs and adversities of the Indian population began.
Professor Edward D. Castillo expresses in his article “California Indian History” that California Indians have been the most unfortunate and the least understood of all the Native American tribes in the nation. “They were once probably the most contented and happy race on the continent, in proportion to their capacities for enjoyment, and they have been more miserably corrupted and destroyed than any other tribes within the union” (Castillo, www.nahc.ca.gov/califindian). They had the largest population, and resided in the most pleasant and naturally productive lands but as we have learned, they were swept away with a most vile and cruel extermination.
Epidemic diseases brought to the state by Spanish colonists and missionaries in the late 1700s to the early 1800s, turned out to be the most powerful and discreet method to surmount Native American population. The impact of the missionaries on the many native tribes was devastating. They forced the tribes to abandon their abundant aboriginal territories and live in disease-dominated and crowded labor camps under miserable living conditions. “Scientific study of demographic trends during this period indicates the Indians of the Americas did not possess any natural immunity to introduced European diseases” (Castillo, www.nahc.ca.gov/califindian). At the time the Spanish entered Alta California, there were more than 300,000 native people living in the state, in more than 200 tribes. However, since California aboriginals were not invulnerable to Spaniards maladies, “by 1860, the state's native population had been reduced to 30,000, decimated by disease, poverty, assimilation, and other historical factors” (Paddison, www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu). What followed from this calamitous decrease was the disruption of the Indians’ life, families, communities, and sustainability which then weakened native resistance to other intrusions. "Suddenly these natives, who were accustomed to their own independent society, found themselves herded together, fed strange food, deprived of their religion, restrained from their own specific sexual customs, and then...

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