On April 22, 1850, the state legislature passed “An act for the Government and Protection of Indians”
into law, providing indenture or apprenticeship of California Indians. This new law led to widespread kidnapping of Indian children.
A new reservation was clearly essential. Not that other solutions hadn’t been tried; in his inaugural address to the legislature, California’s first governor called for a “war of extinction”
against the Indians, and said their complete destruction
was “the inevitable destiny of the race.” In that same year of 1850, California budgeted over a million dollars to reimburse Indian-hating whites who wanted to organize “private military forays.”
In 1858, there were an estimated 10,000 Indians in the state. About 3,200 consented to live under the white man’s direction. The rest tried to continue their way of life. But the new white settlers built fences, and ran their cattle on areas where Indians hunted. When hunting was not possible, the Indians would kill some of the cattle for food. This brought great anger from the settlers and ranchers which would raid Indian villages, killing men, women and children. Any Indian even suspected of taking there cattle was killed.
In 1860, the California Legislature created a Joint Special Committee on what was known as the Mendocino War
to investigate incidents of Indian stealing and killing of the settler’s stock and alleged atrocities committed by the white settlers against the Indians. The Joint Special Committee traveled throughout Mendocino County taking depositions and testimony of prominent settlers in the region. These testimonies are part of the official public record. Records of the Mendocino War are part of the California State Archives, Sacramento.
Here are only, but a few of the depositions taken:
Deposition of Jackson Farley before investigating committee on Indian Affairs to effect that he and other settlers in Long Valley have lost horses and cattle. He claims $3,000 worth. Says he is Captain of volunteer company who go out to punish stock thefts and have killed between 150-200 Indians and taken 22 prisoners. Says the settlers need protection. Written at Round Valley, February 26, 1860.
Deposition of Lawrence Battailes, reservation employee to investigating committee on Indian Affairs. Swears Indians don’t steal stock in Round Valley but eat dead cattle that died from natural causes. Says whites have killed 300-400 Indians since 1858, no whites hurt. Some Indians taken as servants – saw none sold. Written in Round Valley, February 28, 1860.
Deposition of Benjamin Authur before investigating committee on Indian Affairs to effect that Indians always stole stock in winter and settlers always killed Indians in winter. Casually mentions 300 Indians dying of exposure when moved thru snow to reservation in 1856-57. Says Jarboe killed 300 and took 500 POWS. Relates shooting wounded bay and killing him as he lay on ground helpless. Written at Nome Cult Indian Farm. February 28, 1860.
Report from Jarboe to Governor Weller claimed Indians still committing depredations. Relates battle where Indians refuse to quit, all killed. Reports Henley complained that Indians from Eel River has stolen his cattle but Jarboe thinks they were Reservation Indians. Reports wounding of Lieutenant Pool by arrow. Written at Headquarters, Eel River Rangers, December 20, 1859.
Letter from Jarboe, former Volunteer Company Commander of militia to Governor John Downey. Jarboe tells of orders from former Governor Weller to muster troops to fight Indians between north and south forks of Eel River and Long and Eden Valleys. Outlines claims of kills and asks to be paid. Written in Sacramento, February 18, 1860.
William Frazier deposition before investigation committee on Indian Affairs to effect he and others from Long Valley had gone on forays against rancherias and killed men, women, and children indiscriminately. Few prisoners were women – claims Indians had plenty to eat but lived on beef and horse meat. Admits killing women on several occasions. Says few children because they are caught and sold. Written in Ukiah, February 22, 1860.
Nome Cult Reservation:
In June of 1863 the publicized killings of three children from the Hickok Valley, by Indians seeking vengeance for Indian people killed by settlers, enrages Butte and Tehama County settlers. The citizens in Chico petitioned Governor Lelend Stanford for the Army to assist in stopping these Indian outrages. Indian people from many northern California tribes were brought to Chico and detained. There were five Indian men hanged at Helltown east of Chico on suspicion of “committing depredations upon property.”
In July two children from the Lewis family was killed by Indians incited by the Helltown hangings. These killings launched another wave of violent reaction against Indian people. A citizen’s group takes action to end “Indian troubles” in Butte and Tehama counties. They adopted a resolution calling for the removal of every Indian in the area to the reservation in Round Valley within 30 days. Those not surrendering will be killed.
Several different tribes were removed to the Nome Cult Reservation after it was established in Round Valley, Mendocino in 1856. The removal of the Indians from Chico to the Nome Cult Reservation in 1863 is one of the many forced relocations following the establishment of reservations in northern California in the 1850′s.
Most of those removed from the Chico area were from the Maidu tribe from the northern Sacramento Valley and adjacent foothills, but in addition other members of other tribes were also relocated.
In September 1863, 461 Indians were marched under guard from Chico to the Nome Cult Reservation, nearly 100 miles across the Sacramento Valley and rugged North Coast Ranges. Only 277 Indians completed the journey. Some were killed, a few escaped, and others were left behind. Nearly 200 sick Indians that were in an almost dying condition through sickness and gross neglect are scattered along the way for 40 miles. The most grueling part of the trail passed through what today is the Mendocino National Forest. The Nome Cult Trail was a tragic chapter in our state’s history.
The Round Valley, Nome Cult Reservation conditions were absolutely horrible for the Indians. They competed not only with the white settlers for food, but also with the animals. The Indians were rationed only 6 ears of corn daily. They tried using traditional gathering methods, but were often chased off land owned by whites.
Other horrors threatened the Indians. Since there were few white women in the region, that many young Indian women were raped. Just 2 years after the reservation was established, 20% of the Indians were found to have venereal disease.
Also common was the kidnapping of the Indian children, who were highly esteemed as house-servants, which could be worth $50 for a child who could cook and up to $100 for a “likely young girl.” The reservation provided white slave-traders with a ready supply of human merchandise.
In 1870, President Grant proposed that the entire valley be dedicated as a reservation. Although Congress expanded the reservation to more than 100,000 acres, the Indians saw little benefit. Restricted to 5,000 acres in the undesirable northern end of the valley, most of their land was illegally occupied by white ranchers.
In the winter of 1874-75, a Congressman visited the reservation and reported that the conditions were dismal. The congressman accused the Indian Agent of whipping and starving the Indians, which now more than 60% of them were suffering from advanced syphillis.
Through the end of the century, outrages continued. Rape and murder not uncommon. Wealthy cattlemen grazed their herds on Indian land without permission or payment; despite decades of federal attempts to reclaim the land, with the last trespasser finally being evicted not until 1909.
In 1937, a Columbia University student Amelia Susman visited and wrote of the conditions there. The Dawes Act introduced at the turn of the century promised reservation land would be divided up and given to individual Indians, but this too, worked against the Indians. Lots were only ten acres (five acres for a married woman). too small for anything but truck farming, which required equipment, credit, and lots of market savvy. Susman discovered that many of the Indians was leasing their land to the whites, but so often the whites set the price of the rent.
She also discovered that Round Valley was as segregated as the deep south of the United States. The white folk claimed superiority over the Indians. There was no mingling of the two cultures.
Today you can visit Inspiration Point, right after the tiny village of Dos Rios on road 162. The state of California has placed a bronze plaque there, which the plaque has been shot with bullet holes. A fitting commentary on all that followed, turning so much paradise into so much hell.
Much of this background is drawn from Genocide and Vendetta, an excellent history of Round Valley. Also research at the militarymuseum.org