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Population of Native California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Native California Population, according to Cook 1978.
Native California Population, according to Cook 1978.

The Population of Native Californian refers to the population of Indigenous peoples of California. Estimates prior to and after European contact have varied substantially. Pre-contact estimates range from 133,000 to 705,000 with some recent scholars concluding that these estimates are low.

Following the arrival of Europeans in California, disease and violence reduced the population to as low as 25,000. During and after the California Gold Rush, it is estimated that miners and others killed about 4,500 Indigenous people of California between 1849 and 1870.[1] As of 2005, California is the state with the largest self-identified Native American population according to the U.S. Census at 696,600.[2]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ History of Native California
  • ✪ The Mission System | California History [ep.2]
  • ✪ The Black Legend, Native Americans, and Spaniards: Crash Course US History #1


(guitar strumming) - For California Indian history, specifically, I think it's important for people to know that California has always been a populous place. It's home, right now, to 109 to 111 tribes. But back then, you're talking about tribes everywhere. (light music) There is no empty space of wilderness that exists in this place that we currently call California. The way you know that there were Californian Indians everywhere is that every place had a name. There was not a mountain or a field or a region that there wasn't a tribe who had already named it. For the sciences, I think that the land bridge theory has always been sort of a first point of knowledge about native people. But there have been new studies that have shown that there was humans in this side of the Americas over 100,000 years ago, which would mean that that is around the same amount of time in which they say people were sort of first leaving Africa. And so we are asking people to complicate how they understand who are as indigenous peoples here. What we say is we're from this place - That's a real and true belief that we have. We are a part of the land and the land is us and we didn't migrate from some other place. We've always been there. - We've always been a part of our land and not above it, not below it, but equal to. And we have our role. Our roles come from that engagement and come from seeing what needs to be done to make things the best way that they can be. - So all this is very important for people to understand because I think sometimes they think California Indian people are here, but they're not really doing much with the space. There's so much evidence of, like, agriculture. There's evidence of large areas in which they're tending to. There's evidence of ways in which they're shaping what we now think of as the natural landscape. And then colonization happens. (somber music) Most California Indian scholars, they call it invasion. So we're being invaded. - When Cabrillo was first on one of his ships in 1500s, burning of the land is what actually gave away people on that land. That was, like, the first thing that, you know, colonizers saw, was our traditional burnings of the lands. - You're talking about three waves of destruction. From the start of these waves, there's not really a time period in which Californian Indians can recover from what's happening to them. So the first wave of destruction is the Spanish mission system. They built the first mission in San Diego. There's 21 missions that they built in total. This is Father Junípero Serra. And they're bringing people into the missions in the hopes that they can create this labor force to be able to establish this extension of Spain. The mission system is effectively an enslavement system of California Indian people. The missionaries bring along with them Spanish soldiers. The soldiers are written about in these records as being perpetrators of sexual violence, not only against women, but also children. Junípero Serra actually talks about that in his journals. He's like, they're sexually assaulting women and children in front of people. And when people try to stop them, they get shot. I mean, it's a very violent type of situation. The mission system sort of stops around San Francisco and so up here in Northern California, what they say about us is we were contacted relatively late in the sort of colonization cycle. We'd had contact with some explorers who had come through, people that were looking mostly for gold. And at a point, they find gold. And this is where you get the sort of, like, massive influx of the gold rush. (somber music) - And it just came, like, overnight and it came in hard. And life just changed drastically just immediately in a lot of ways for California people. (somber music) - They're not here so that they can set up a colony or so that they can establish a labor force. They want gold. They will kill whoever's in the way. They will take apart whatever needs to be taken apart. They'll do whatever it takes. The thing about the gold rush that people don't think about is that it was actually an environmental destruction as well. And then on top of that, they are setting up a political system and a state system of laws and governance that will legalize the genocide that they want to commit against California Indian people. - Our first lieutenant governor, Peter Burnett, saw this huge population of Indians in the state. And so he's the one that, you know, charged the war of extermination on the California Indians. And we lost, you know, probably around 80% of our total population in just a short period of years. - The early settlers wanted the resources, they wanted what would make them rich faster. But instead of asking the tribe to help them or assist them, they say, well, since the tribe probably won't just give it to us, we're just gonna wipe them out. We're gonna massacre them. We're gonna take everything for ourselves. (somber music) - Each region of California is allowed to set their own sort of, 'What are we gonna pay for a scalp or a head?' But when you look at advertisements, what you see is that they're advertising them at things like $5 a head and 25 cents per scalp. The first year that they do this, they pay one million dollars. The state of California says that it has paid one million dollars for killing Indian people. The second year they do it, it's one million dollars. In this region, every single tribe in this region would have some kind of stories about the violence that came out of the gold rush. My great-grandfather, you know, his family is from Karuk country. His great-uncle, his mom had lived through the gold rush. And he was born sort of, like, at the tail-end of this period of time and he would always say to my mother, you know, remember, granddaughter, you're here because some miner was a bad shot. Like, that's how close it is to who we are. (light music) - When modern contact, we had to forgot about all our relationships. We had to forget about all of the sciences and we had to forget about all of the philosophies. We had to forgot about everything that was ingrained in us for thousands of years. To a shattered existence. (somber music) - They would take your kids from your family and take them to boarding schools. And then assimilate you, you were not to practice your cultures. You're not to practice your traditions. You're supposed to practice, you know, I hate to say it this way, the white man's religion. We're gonna Christianize you. You're gonna follow our god. - I know that I'm a product of forced assimilation. I know I was stripped of some of the smartest information a human being can have and I know I don't have that now. But I know it's attainable over time. And we're on the right path. - There's all these great moments of native people making sure that they were trying to hold on to things. Like, fighting back and making plans for the future. It's palpable in Humboldt County. (chainsaw whirring) (light music) - The Native American community and especially Wiyots and the surrounding tribes were put through a lot. It wasn't just the Wiyots, it was Yurok, Hupa, and Karuk. We were all put through a lot during the early years. Here we are, we're growing. We're becoming a stronger nations. We're working together with each other to create a positive thing. And not only us working with each other's sister tribes, we're working with the cities, the governments that surround us, the schools, HSU, to make this more positive. - Humboldt State University is within the aboriginal territory of the Wiyot people. And then we have several other large tribes around here, the three largest in California, the Karuk, the Yurok, and the Hupa. So being that we are in the backyard of three of the largest tribes, we can draw off and partner with some of our local tribes to bring that extra educational component to our STEM and natural resource students. Here at the Indian Natural Resources, Science and Engineering program, and Diversity in STEM, we go by INERSP+. Our services generally provide navigational suggestions to students, assisting them navigate the college in Natural Resources and Sciences. We often are enriching that experience with extra curricular activities coming from an indigenous perspective. So bringing up our ancestors practices, and techniques of managing landscapes, melding them or braiding them in with the scientific method and innovative technologies. - In Native Studies, we're doing a sort of broad spectrum of what it's like to learn from indigenous peoples and cultures and knowledges so that we can build a better world, build a better way of knowing. It's about how we learn with and from native people instead of disciplines historically that have focused on the study of Native American people. - My paternal grandmother was one of the founders of the Indian Tribal Education Personnel program, the ITEPP, back in the late '60s and early '70s. Her and a bunch of other mothers and grandmothers, they were the ones that kind of started a lot of other community programs, our healthcare programs, our education programs. I always think it's a pretty amazing story 'cause a lot of those women, her included, had attended boarding schools, and for those women to come back from that and still understand that we needed health and we needed education and we needed a strong community. - When you talk about the Indian Tribal Educational Personnel Program and United Indian Health Services, having these women with moxie, they come from a generation of women who have been having to just hold that strength for such a long time. And part of the work as tribal people is how do we go back and tap into that 'cause that's always there. We come from a long line of those folks who are moving forward and have had to keep their dignity, keep their pride. And although it hurts, we're still doing that work. That's what I try to tap in for the young people, tribal people, in particular, but also for non-Indian students to hear that too. It's not all historical trauma and then we're gone. No, it's historical trauma and we're still here and we're not going anywhere. We're still learning, we're still enduring. (light music)


Pre-contact estimates

Historians have calculated the Native Californian population prior to European entry into the region using a number of different methods, including:

  • Mission records (births, baptisms, deaths, and total numbers of neophytes at particular periods);
  • Counting villages identified from historic, ethnographic, or archaeological records, multiplied by estimates of the average number of inhabitants per village;
  • Ecological estimates of the regional human carrying capacity, given aboriginal technologies and economies;
  • Population density extrapolations from better-documented regions to less well known ones; and
  • Extrapolating from historic censuses, using estimated rates of population decrease.

Few analysts claim that these methods yield accurate numbers. The estimates developed by different analysts commonly vary by a factor of two or more. Stephen Powers initially estimated that the pre-contact population of the state was 1,520,000. He later reduced this figure to 705,000.[3][4]

C. Hart Merriam offered the first detailed analysis. He based his estimates on mission records and extrapolated that to non-missionized areas. His estimate for the state as a whole was 260,000.[5] Alfred L. Kroeber made a detailed re-analysis, both for the state as a whole and for the individual ethnolinguistic groups within it. He reduced Merriam's figure by about half, to 133,000 Native Californians in 1770.[6]

Martin A. Baumhoff used an ecological basis to evaluate the potential carrying capacity and estimated an aboriginal population of 350,000.[7]

Sherburne F. Cook was the most persistent and painstaking student of the problem, examining in detail both pre-contact estimates and the history of demographic decline during mission and post-mission periods. Initially, in 1943, Cook arrived at a figure only 7% higher than the one previously suggested by Kroeber: 133,550 (excluding the Modoc, Northern Paiute, Washoe, Owens Valley Paiute, and Colorado River Yumans).[8]:161–194 Cook later raised his estimate to 310,000.[9]:161–194

Some scholars now believe that waves of epidemic diseases reached California well in advance of the arrival of the Franciscans in 1769. If correct, this may imply that population estimates using the beginning of the mission period as a baseline have substantially underestimated the state's pre-Columbian population.[10][11]

California statehood and genocide

Mexican sovereignty over Alta California was short lived, as after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed to end the Mexican–American War in 1848, the U.S. took control of California, and in the latter half of the 19th century both State and Federal authorities, incited[12][13] aided and financed miners, settlers, ranchers and people's militias to enslave, kidnap, murder and exterminate a major proportion of displaced Native American Indians, sometimes contemptuously referred to as "Diggers", using many of the same policies of violence against the indigenous population that it did throughout its territory.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

Simultaneous to the ongoing extermination, reports of its effects were being made known to the outside world.[notes 1]

A notable early eyewitness testimony and account: "The Indians of California" 1864, is from John Ross Browne, Custom's official and Inspector of Indian Affairs on the Pacific Coast systematically categorizing the fraud, corruption, land theft, slavery, rape and massacre perpetrated on a substantial portion of the aboriginal population.[23]

By one estimate, at least 4,500 California Indians were killed between 1849 and 1870.[24] Historian Benjamin Madley recorded the numbers of killings of California Indians between 1846 and 1873 and estimated that during this period at least 9,400 to 16,000 California Indians were killed by non-Indians, mostly occurring in more than 370 massacres (defined as the "intentional killing of five or more disarmed combatants or largely unarmed noncombatants, including women, children, and prisoners, whether in the context of a battle or otherwise").[25] Professor Ed Castillo, of Sonoma State University, provides a higher estimate: "The handiwork of these well armed death squads combined with the widespread random killing of Indians by individual miners resulted in the death of 100,000 Indians in the first two years of the gold rush."[26]

Post-contact changes

The decline of Native Californian populations during the late 18th and 19th centuries was investigated in most detail by Cook.[8][9][27] Cook assessed the relative importance of the various sources of the decline, including Old World epidemic diseases, violence, nutritional changes, and cultural shock. Declines tended to be steepest in the areas directly affected by the missions and the Gold Rush. Other studies have addressed the changes that occurred within individual regions or ethnolinguistic groups.

The Native Californian population reached its nadir of around 25,000 at the end of the 19th century. Based on Kroeber's estimate of 133,000 people in 1770,[6] this represents a more than 80% decrease. Using Cook's revised figure, it constitutes a decline of more than 90%. On this Cook rendered his harshest criticism:

The first (factor) was the food supply ... The second factor was disease. ...

A third factor, which strongly intensified the effect of the other two, was the social and physical disruption visited upon the Indian. He was driven from his home by the thousands, starved, beaten, raped, and murdered with impunity. He was not only given no assistance in the struggle against foreign diseases, but was prevented from adopting even the most elementary measures to secure his food, clothing, and shelter. The utter devastation caused by the white man was literally incredible, and not until the population figures are examined does the extent of the havoc become evident.[9]:200

The population subsequently rose substantially throughout the 20th century. This recovery may represent both true demographic growth and changing patterns in ethnic self-description. In the 21st century, after more than eight generations of close interaction between Native Californians and individuals of European, Asian, African, and other Native American descent, there can be little objective basis for quantifying the Native Californian component within the state's population. However, reservation rolls and census self-descriptions provide some information.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Aboriginal Americans. Quote: 'Dr. MacGowan, in a lecture delivered at New York, estimated the present number of Indians in the United States to be about 250,000, and said that unless something prevented the oppression and cruelty of the white man, these people would gradually become reduced, and finally extinct. He predicted the total extermination of the Digger Indians of California and the tribes of other States, within ten years, if something were not done for their relief. The lecturer concluded by strongly urging the establishment of a Protective Aborigines Society, something similar to the society in England to prevent cruelty to animals. By this means he thought the condition of the Indian might be improved and the race longer perpetuated'. The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 274 (Mar. 31, 1866), p. 350


  1. ^ "Minorities During the Gold Rush". Archived from the original on February 1, 2014.
  2. ^ "American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month: November 2006". U.S. Department of Commerce. 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-09-29.
  3. ^ Powers, Stephen (1875). "California Indian Characteristics". Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (14): 297–309.
  4. ^ Powers, Stephen (1872). "The Northern California Indians, No. 5". Overland Monthly (9): 303–313.
  5. ^ Merriam, C. Hart (1905). "The Indian Population of California". American Anthropologist. 7 (4): 594–606. doi:10.1525/aa.1905.7.4.02a00030.
  6. ^ a b Kroeber, A. L. (1925). "Handbook of the Indians of California". Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin (78): 880–891.
  7. ^ Baumhoff, Martin A. (1963). Sturtevant, William C. (ed.). "Ecological Determinants of Aboriginal California Populations". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 8 (49): 155–236.
  8. ^ a b Cook, Sherburne F. (1976). The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  9. ^ a b c Cook, Sherburne F. (1976). The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  10. ^ Preston, William L. (1996). "Serpent in Eden: Dispersal of Foreign Diseases into Pre-Mission California". Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. 18 (18): 2–37.
  11. ^ Preston, William L. (2002). "Portents of Plague from California's Protohistoric Period". Ethnohistory. 49: 69–121. doi:10.1215/00141801-49-1-69.
  12. ^ On January 6, 1851 at his State of the State address to the California Senate, 1st Governor Peter Burnett used the following words: "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert."
  13. ^ Library, California State. "Governors of California - Peter Burnett. Executive Orders".
  14. ^ Coffer, William E. "Genocide of the California Indians, with a comparative study of other minorities." Indian (The) Historian San Francisco, Cal. 10, no. 2 (1977): 8–15.
  15. ^ Norton, Jack. Genocide in northwestern California: When our worlds cried. Indian Historian Press, 1979.
  16. ^ Carranco, Lynwood, and Estle Beard. Genocide and Vendetta: The Round Valley Wars of Northern California. University of Oklahoma Press, 1981.
  17. ^ Lindsay, Brendan C. Murder state: California's native American genocide, 1846–1873. U of Nebraska Press, 2012.
  18. ^ Johnston-Dodds, Kimberly, and John L. Burton. Early California Laws and Policies Related to California Indians. California State Library, California Research Bureau, 2002.
  19. ^ "Johnston-Dodds" (PDF).
  20. ^ Trafzer, Clifford E., and Michelle Lorimer. "Silencing California Indian genocide in social studies texts." American Behavioral Scientist 2014, Vol 58(1) 64– 82
  21. ^ Trafzer, Clifford E.; Lorimer, Michelle (5 August 2013). "Silencing California Indian Genocide in Social Studies Texts". American Behavioral Scientist. 58 (1): 64–82. doi:10.1177/0002764213495032.
  22. ^ Madley, Benjamin. "It's time to acknowledge the genocide of California's Indians".
  23. ^ John Ross Browne (24 September 1871). Crusoe's Island: A Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk. With Sketches of Adventure in ... Harper & brothers – via Internet Archive.
  24. ^ "Minorities During the Gold Rush". California Secretary of State. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014.
  25. ^ Madley, Benjamin, An American Genocide, The United States and the California Catastrophe, 1846–1873, Yale University Press, 2016, 692 pages, ISBN 978-0-300-18136-4, p.11, p.351
  26. ^ California, State of. "California Indian History - California Native American Heritage Commission".
  27. ^ Cook, Sherburne F. (1978). Heizer, Robert F. (ed.). Historical Demography. Handbook of North American Indians. pp. 91–98.
This page was last edited on 25 September 2019, at 21:02
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