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Mass killings





An American Genocide:

The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873

Video        24 October 2016


On October 5, 2016

the California Historical Society

and the Presidio Trust presented an evening lecture

with Professor Ben Madley,

author of An American Genocide:

The United States

and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873,

and Greg Sarris,

Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.


















massacre of Native Americans

in Round Valley, California


Across Northern California

— north of Napa’s vineyards,

along the banks of the Russian River

and in numerous other places

from deserts to redwood groves —

as many as 5,617 Native people,

and perhaps more

whose deaths were not recorded,

were massacred

by officially sanctioned militias

and U.S. troops

from the 1840s to the 1870s,

campaigns often initiated

by white settlers like Mr. Hastings

who wanted to use the land

for their own purposes.


Thousands more Indians were killed

by vigilantes during the same period.


But what sets apart the organized campaigns

is that the killers’ travel and ammunition expenses

were reimbursed by the state of California

and the federal government.


“It’s not an exaggeration to say

that California state legislators

established a state-sponsored killing machine,”

Benjamin Madley, a history professor

at the University of California, Los Angeles, said.


By Dr. Madley’s calculation,

expeditions carried out at Mr. Hastings’s behest

killed at least 283 men, women and children,

the most deadly of 24 known California

state militia campaigns.


In 1878,

Mr. Hastings donated $100,000 in gold coins

to found the school that carries his name,

California’s first law school.

It was “to be forever known and designated

as ‘Hastings’ College of the Law,”

according to the school’s enactment.




That period was a particularly

treacherous and murderous time in California

— “a catalog of slit throats,

gunshot wounds and crushed skulls,”

wrote Kevin Starr, a California historian.


But even back then,

the massacres of Indians

carried out by Mr. Hastings’s militias

shocked contemporaries

and prompted an investigation

in the Legislature.


Brendan Lindsay,

author of the 2012 book

“Murder State:

California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873,”

says ranchers hunted Indians in the way

they might track down a fox

that ventured into a henhouse.


According to the chronology by Dr. Lindsay,

one set of killings was carried out by H.L. Hall,

who was hired to look after Mr. Hastings’s

cattle and horse ranches in 1858.


When four or six — accounts differ —

of the nearly 400 horses on the ranch were killed,

Mr. Hall and three other men raided a Yuki village

and killed nine or 11 tribespeople.


During subsequent massacres,

he rode into Yuki villages

and killed women and children,

including the girl he said

he killed for “stubbornness.”










USA > genocide        UK / USA


native-americans-genocide-united-states - March 02, 2018




watch?v=qSKKcIZUw8w - California Historical Society - 24 October 2016












genocidal onslaught












native-americans-genocide-united-states - March 02, 2018










Corpus of news articles


 USA > Race relations >


Native Americans / American Indians >


Mass killings, Massacres




‘An American Genocide,’

by Benjamin Madley


May 27, 2016

By Alan Taylor

The United States
and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873
By Benjamin Madley
Illustrated. 692 pp. Yale University Press. $38.


The state of sunshine and pleasure is drenched in the blood of Indians, the victims of mass killings. These peaked between 1846, when Americans conquered California from Mexico, and 1873, when they snuffed out the last group resistance by natives in the state. The slaughter of California’s Indians was rapid and thorough even by the grim standards prevailing elsewhere in North America. Before 1846, California’s native peoples suffered great losses from diseases and dispossession. But Spanish colonizers and their Mexican successors wanted to preserve Indians as mission inmates or as cheap and dependent farm labor. The American newcomers, however, came by the thousands and treated natives as menaces best destroyed, the sooner the better.

Lacking firearms, subdivided into many distinct groups, and greatly outnumbered by 1852, the California natives were more vulnerable to attack than Indians elsewhere. As Benjamin Madley writes in “An American Genocide,” by 1873, roaming bands of Indian-killers played a major role in reducing native numbers by more than 80 percent. Often the massacres erupted as indiscriminate retribution after some starving Indians killed and ate a few cattle. Vigilante gangs also profited by seizing native women and children for sale as slaves, principally in San Francisco. A Sinkyone survivor, Sally Bell, recalled the morning when “some white men came. They killed my grandfather and my mother and my father. . . . Then they killed my baby sister and cut her heart out and threw it in the brush where I ran and hid.”

Nearly genocidal in their ­consequences, the mass murders raise the question: Did they constitute genocide by official design? Madley, a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks so. He thoroughly documents the extent of the killings and their horrific consequences. In addition to the grim stories in his text, Madley devotes nearly 200 pages to appendixes listing every known episode of violence involving California Indians.

“Genocide,” however, is rhetorically double-edged, provoking controversy as it invites attention. A 20th-century coinage, “genocide” derives from the industrial and bureaucratic scale of slaughter perfected by the Nazis. The term distorts if projected back onto the mid-19th century, when governments were far weaker and less cohesive in their purposes. Shedding more heat than light, the word often distracts the author from telling his important story as he digresses to dwell on the 1948 definition of genocide by a United Nations convention.

Emphasizing “intention and repetition” in the California massacres, Madley plays up the designing role of state and federal officials, in contrast to previous writers who stressed the autonomy and agency of local vigilantes. State officials certainly applauded the massacres and often funded or rewarded the killers. One California senator, John B. Weller, declared of Indians, “Humanity may forbid, but the interest of the white man demands their extinction.” Madley concludes that officials created and managed a “well-funded killing machine.”

Much of the evidence, however, shows elected officials reacting to many and diffuse initiatives by their far-flung constituents, who could and did act on their own well-developed racial hatred to commit mass murder. And federal officials did not all collude in facilitating the atrocities. During the 1850s federal treaty commissioners tried to reduce the bloodshed by isolating natives on reservations farther from the killers. The label “genocide” ultimately obscures the decentralized and populist nature of killings that involved thousands of Americans, high and low in society.

Alan Taylor is a professor of history at the University of Virginia and the author of “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.”

A version of this article appears in print on May 29, 2016, on Page 19 of the Sunday Book Review
with the headline: Golden State Genocide.

‘An American Genocide,’ by Benjamin Madley,
May 27, 2016,










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