Sunday 7 October 2007

Genocide (s) in California

In honor of Indigenous People's Day...

The below article comes from the Daily Triplicate of Crescent City CA.

Let us thank Goodness for the speaker, the newspaper writer, and organizers of the Tolowa Dee'ni Day...

And let us pray that Amerikkka and we the people can someday acknowledge, repent and make some sort of amends for the incredible damage done by our respected forebears in their rush towards ethnic cleansing and environmental devastation, euphemistically and creepily called "settling" the country.

Benjamin Madley, a fifth-year student in Yale University's History Ph.D program, speaks about Tolowa massacres in Del Norte County during Tolowa Dee'ni Day at the Howonquet Community Center on Saturday.
The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson

By Adam Madison

Triplicate Staff Writer

SMITH RIVER — Saturday's Tolowa Dee'ni Day at the Howonquet Community Center in Smith River, a celebration of Tolowa culture, took a different tone after a sobering presentation on Tolowa massacres in Del Norte County.

"I think the destruction of the Native Americans is one of the greatest crimes in California's history," Ben Madley said, a fifth-year student in the Yale University History Ph.D program and keynote speaker at the event. "A crime of which precious little is written."

Madley used his dissertation and work-in-progress, "American Genocide: The Northern California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873," which includes accounts of Tolowa massacres by white people in Del Norte County in the presentation.

Madley grew up in Happy Camp and decided to pursue California Native American genocide while an undergraduate at Yale.

"Later in college I came across the Yuki genocide, and I started to wonder if this happened to all California Indians," Madley said. "Both Indians and whites need to face up to this very uncomfortable history and the terrible wrongs that were done."

Madley compared the massacres of the Tolowa, which began in the 1850s to the Holocaust.

According to Madley's presentation, the Tolowa massacres were carried out by state-funded white militias. In the 1860s, California spent $106 million in funding for the killing of Native Americans.

He said that the amount in today's dollars would be closer to $3.6 billion.

"The U.S. Congress decided to reimburse the state for every bit of money they spent on the militias," Madley said, "minus $100,000."

He talked about how easy it was for a man to become a state-funded militia who could kill anyone as long as he thought they were Indian.

"All they had to do was sign up and they would get to go home with their gun and bullets," Madley said.

The militia men also received stipends, land and cash incentives, depending on whether they killed a man, woman or child.

"California's laws in state history were made so that whites could do anything they want," Madley said. "It was elected officials that made all of this possible."

He spoke of the horrors of the first state-sanctioned reservations created after the massacres.

Madley included examples, such as extremely small areas the Tolowa survivors were put into, and "concentration-camp" conditions in which they were living.

"Indians got one-third of what prisoners in Auschwitz were fed," Madley said. "The Tolowa didn't have strong immune systems, and they were packed in tight."

The killings became more efficient towards 1854, with more guns, ammunition and uniforms coming from the state.

"They (the state) also came to believe they needed to finish the job," Madley said.

Madley said that most of the Tolowa killings were near water.

"This is why there isn't any archaeological findings," he said.

"It is very easy to dispose of bodies when you are near large bodies of water," Madley said.

He added that at some sites, such as Yontucket (now known as Burnt Ranch) immense bonfires were built, using material from the village sites and men, women and babies were thrown into the flames.

Madley read other accounts from whites, who witnessed the killings of militia men tying large rocks and debris to the necks of Tolowa men and throwing them into the ocean.

He said that the U.S. government was "treating the Indians like wolves being hunted down and exterminated with impunity."

Tolowa tribe member and local teacher Loren Bommelyn provided some of the information used in Madley's presentation.

Bommelyn also was a keynote speaker and spoke about the massacres from his point of view—as a Tolowa.

"If it's not backed up by degrees, then they (general public) don't believe it," Bommelyn said.

"Otherwise it's just an Indian up here telling stories," he said.

Bommelyn touted the importance of bringing the local Tolowa massacres to light.

"It helps stabilize our world," he said. "We're trying to maintain an idea, a sense of who we are."

Bommelyn told the group the hardest thing about the massacres was living with the fact they happened.

"You know we've been living this since 1851," he said. "At the same time, it's who we are as a people."

Reach Adam Madison at


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