Albert Bender: California Indians were victims of genocide

A view of Indian Island in California. The Wiyot Tribe lived on the island until it was nearly wiped out by a massacre on February 26, 1860. Photo by Ellin Beltz via Wikipedia

Albert Bender, a member of the Cherokee Nation, commends Chiitaanibah Johnson, a young Navajo and Maidu woman, for challenging one of her professors about the genocide committed against Native peoples in California and the United States:
In the Gold Rush era white American settlers began hunting and killing Native people for sport, often using dogs to pursue terror-stricken Indian families. These "hunters" wrote extensively of their murderous deeds. A poignant example is given by an Indian killer in Northern California: "Dodging and ducking through the thickets like frightened deer, I brought down one with a shot from my double-barrel, but he was up and streaking it (sic) through the brush before I could lay hands upon him. Several of us followed him for half-mile or more before we finished him."

Organized companies of Euro-American males often bragged of the number of Indians they had murdered. A Baptist missionary, Lee Thayer, writing in 1922, recounted atrocities:

"Ezekiel Merrit, Commander of the Bear Flag Party, boasted nearly one hundred notches on his tomahawk handle, his record of Indian kills. Indian villages were used as targets for rifle practice and Indians were wantonly destroyed by the wholesale."

The newspapers were open advocates of genocide, as shown by the Yreka Herald of 1853:

"We hope that the government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a war of extermination until the last red...ns of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time - the time has arrived, the work has commenced and let the first man who says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor."

In 1859, the state Superintendent for Indian Affairs reported that the mass killing of Indian people by armed militias was a daily occurrence. He warned that if this continued the Native population would soon be exterminated.

Get the Story:
Albert Bender: Native student challenges California professor who denies genocide (People's World 11/4)

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