4: The US Invasion
"Spanish law clearly and absolutely secured to Indians fixed rights
of property in the lands that they occupy...
"A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the
races till the Indian race becomes extinct."
"Never before in history has a people been swept away with
such terrible swiftness."
|1832||"What can we ever hope to do with the western coast, a coast of three thousand miles, rockbound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbor on it? What use have we for such a country?" Senator Daniel Webster speaking to Congress.|
|1846||May||The United States invades Mexico from the east, reaching San Diego in December. See The Mexican-American War (external).|
|1848||January 24||James Marshall at Sutter's Mill on the American River near present-day Sacramento discovers gold|
|February 2||The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (external), ending the war between Mexico and the U.S. and giving the U.S. the territories of Alta California, New Mexico, and Texas for $15 million. The news took six months (!) to reach President Polk and the American federal government in Washington.|
|July||The U.S. Governor Richard C. Mason is faced with massive desertions; he finds it impossible to retain people to round up the deserters who have all joined the gold rush (further links).|
|1849||"In one astounding year the place would be transformed from obscurity to world prominence; from an agricultural frontier that attracted 400 settlers in 1848 to a mining frontier that lured 90,000 impatient men in 1849; from a society of neighbors and families to one of strangers and transients; from an ox-cart economy based on hides and tallow to a complex economy based on gold mining; from Catholic to Protestant; from Latin to Anglo-Saxon." J.S. Holiday, The World Rushed In.|
|1850||September 9||California is granted statehood by the United States.|
|September 15||Senator John Fremont reports to the President: "statements I have given you,
Mr. President ...show that ...Spanish law clearly and absolutely secured
to Indians fixed rights of property in the lands that they occupy...and
that some particular provision will be necessary to divest them of these
rights." See more
information on the eighteen treaties signed to accomplish this, though
nominally aiming to protect the rights of the Indians (external).
See the history of the Muwekma Ohlone (external).
During the gold rush, the native population of Alta California is decimated. From a population of around 310,000 at the beginning of the Spanish incursion in 1769, there are 150,000 left in 1848. Two thirds of them--100,000 men, women, and children--are killed or otherwise perish during the first ten years of the U.S. takeover; by the end of the decade, only 50,000 natives are left alive. See excerpts from the collection Exterminate Them: written accounts of the murder, rape, and slavery of Native Americans during the California gold rush, 1848-1868.
History books often only report that the gold rush created one of the great migrations in American history. According to author Daniel Bacon, "There was a time in 1849 when the population of San Francisco was doubling every ten days, and San Francisco almost overnight was changed from a pastoral little village into a bustling metropolis." People came from almost every corner of the world. By 1852, a quarter of a million fortune hunters had arrived in California.
The new government pursued a deliberate policy of genocide, to the point of providing bounties on dead natives.
|1900||Population reduced to a few thousand; numbers uncertain.|
|1924||June 15||Congress finally confers citizenship on (some) Native Americans.|
|Present||Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Chumash population has
recovered somewhat; there are now approximately 3,000 people of Chumash
descent living throughout the United States.
The 126-acre Santa Ynez Chumash Indian Reservation, located 33 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, supports a population of about 320.
For an impressive overview with maps, histrical documents, statistics, and current native links, see Paula Giese's California Tribes (external).
See also Federally Recognized California Tribes (external)