"The Gold Rush is often romanticized as an example of how American ingenuity realized early America's vision of Manifest Destiny. For Native people, the Gold Rush is viewed in dramatically different terms. To us, it was an attempted genocide.
Within 10 years after the arrival of the first miners, half of the Karuk population died from violence, disease or starvation. After the easy gold was found and the practice of hydraulic mining was banned in 1884, most of the miners left. They left behind a dramatically altered landscape, a crippled fishery, and lots of mercury.
Today, a new breed of miner has returned to the Klamath and many other California watersheds. Instead of mules, this new wave of miners ride in SUVs towing behind them large machines called suction dredges. These weekend warriors mine for fun, using large suction pumps connected to a hose up to 8 inches in diameter. The miner snorkels along the bottom of the river sucking up gravel, sand and the old mercury, and leaving behind a dramatically altered streambed. The suctioned material is run through a sluice box where the gold is collected. Everything else is simply discharged back into the river."
Get the Story:
Leaf Hillman: Taxpayers help miners hurt fish habitat
(The Sacramento Bee 3/6)
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