Bearing archival witness to Euro-American violence against California Indians, 1847-1866: decolonizing Northern California Indian historiography

Most Californians are ignorant of events that destroyed lives and livelihoods of California‘s Indigenous Peoples around the time of statehood. Through digitized images of primary sources, this project documents how Euro-Americans in California used militias and independent companies to eradicate Indigenous Peoples within the state. A literature review provides background for the project, covering American Indian historiography, themes of colonization and decolonization, California Indian historiography, and the role that public history and archives play in creating new participatory historical narratives. Sources of Data: Published and unpublished primary and secondary sources were reviewed in repositories throughout Northern California including county archives, historical societies, museums, public libraries, and the California State Library. Types of materials reviewed were newspaper articles, federal government documents, state government documents, muster rolls, unpublished manuscript collections, dissertations, masters‘ theses, national and state park historical reports, and published works such as books, historical society journal articles and publications. For this project, digital images of key primary source documents are organized chronologically into annotated timelines covering the period of 1847 to 1866. Sixteen northern California counties are represented: Butte, Del Norte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Klamath, Lassen, Mendocino, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, and Yuba. Conclusions Reached: This project is a public history that contributes to efforts to decolonize Northern California Indian historiography. Newspaper accounts reveal violent activities against California Indians in sixteen counties within a fifteen-year period. Rosters compiled from state records show at least 4,899 names attached to fifty-four militia or independent company units supported by the Governor and the Legislature. Authors recounting atrocities perpetrated against California Indigenous Peoples in the newspaper articles and government documents typically used euphemistic language to describe the brutality of their actions. This project will be posted to an internet site where information about Euro-American violence against California‘s Indigenous Peoples will be accessible to the public.