Acknowledge the Genocide of Californian Native Americans

Yuma Indian Woman by Ashley Van Haeften

Target: Jerry Brown, Governor of California

Goal: Publicly acknowledge that the Californian government condoned the genocide of its Native American population.

In 1846, there were as many as 150,000 Native Americans in California. By 1870, however, the Native American population had dramatically dropped to fewer than 30,000. This huge drop within 14 years is due in part to the fact that the Californian government had not only allowed, but encouraged the decimation of the natives. Governor Jerry Brown should publicly acknowledge that the Californian government committed genocide against the natives; only then can we begin to make up for the atrocities that we enacted.

In 1948, the United Nations Genocide Convention settled on a definition of what constituted genocide. First, the perpetrators must show their “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” Then, they must commit at least one of the five genocidal acts listed in the convention, which include killing, causing bodily or mental harm, making people live in deadly conditions, preventing births, and stealing children. By these criteria, what the Californian government did to the natives is definitely genocide.

In 1850, the year that California became a state, one of the first things the state legislature did was strip Native Americans of all legal protections. So if anyone attacked or killed a Native American, they would face no punishment. Then a law was passed that allowed the “indenture” of any native, causing slave raiders to separate men and women from each other, preventing births and stealing children from their families. The state also encouraged the demolishing of native villages, which drove them to the uninhabitable mountains. In 1851, the California governor declared that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged … until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

The state of California committed horrifying genocide on its native people, but the tragedy is largely ignored by its government and education system. The first step to correcting the wrongs we committed begins when we acknowledge that we did them. Sign this petition to get Governor Jerry Brown to recognize the genocide that was committed against California’s Native Americans.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Brown,

The Californian government has yet to acknowledge the genocide it committed against its Native American population. If you look at the criteria for what constitutes a genocide, you will see that the Californian government has committed every single one of them.

We have killed the Native Americans, caused them bodily and mental harm, forced them to live in deadly conditions, prevented their births, and stole their children. The very least we can do is stop pretending that it never happened. Please publicly acknowledge that the Californian government has committed genocide against the Native Americans so that we can begin to correct the wrongs that were done.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Ashley Van Haeften

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2 Comments

  1. Finally this cruel chapter in the U.S. is done American “History” public. One speaks always of the countless European and Asian genocide! -Forgotten and repressed are doing but again and again, that exactly such genocide (10 to 13 million massacred native Americans) by the ancestors of today’s White majority US Americans, has been practiced.

  2. Barbara Tomlinson says:

    Horrible tragedy is not given any mention in textbooks.

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