Engineering Genocide Page 1
A Web Extends Unbroken From the Past, A Web of Oppression, A Web of Survival
© Russell F. Imrie 1996
Like a giant blanket covering hundreds of thousands of souls, shrouding justice and
assuaging greed...an insideous web came over indigenous Californians in 1848. Many
fought against it in a smoldering guerrilla war of retaliation and massacres. Thousands
succumbed to syphilis, alcohol, influenza. Starvation was rampant as streams were gouged
by miners and wildlife was exterminated. The Elk, the Salmon, the great Grizzly bear
were brutally eliminated, a process continuing today. Labor contractors such as John Sutter virtually destroyed
indigenous life in several counties by incorporating all local tribes as indentured
labor and making breeding, domestic family units obsolete.
Wealthy Americans set themselves up as "Justices of the Peace" under
the 1850 ACT and used their absolute power over
indigenous people as a way to ensure a steady supply of indentured labor, child
and adult, for ranches and farms. Any family, yesterday or today, would fall to
pieces with mothers, fathers, and children herded up and set to work for terms
up to 16 years, the sentence for not being "under the protection of a white
man" or for the crime of being.
The web was overpowering. Indigenous people went underground while life moved into
the 20th Century. These first illegals, the first undocumented workers, nurtured
each other in small enclaves such as Indian Canyon. Resistance was stubborn, and
Today's Legal Web
Resistance today encompasses educating an uninformed public, legal initiatives and
cultural revival. The engineering of extermination of tribes is stronger than ever in California
mythology and in policy forming levels of the government . The "Indian Wars" continue
right now. Maybe it seems like this is a complaint by a vocal minority but a closer reality
check renders a clearer picture. Why aren't there more visible, local indigenous
tribes and groups? Do they really exist? Maybe tribes seeking legal acknowledgement
just don't meet the criteria?
Instead, we are looking at the reality of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Indigenous peoples cannot accept that prophecy, as indigenous Californians and as
citizens who deserve any benefit that is legal and constitutionally guaranteed. But
reality is different...
Practices that led to tribal termination, acknowledgement applications denials, and
land title losses for the few California indigenous who held land in the 1950's and
70's were explicit policy of the BIA (a doctrine that Congress rendered void in P.L.
103-263). Why then weren't more California tribes acknowledged from the 1970's through
today? Under the BIA's 1978 Bureau of Acknowledgement and Research "streamlined",
"fast track" procedures, not one tribe has successfully applied for reinstatement
and/or acknowledgement. This because, as indigenous people know, there is, today, a behind
- the - scenes agenda of extermination.
From an internal BIA memorandum from a legal staff justifying denials that have been
defacto policy for years, who long ago realized that under the 1934 Indian Reorganization
Act California tribes were entirely entitled to acknowledgement and that stonewalling and denial procedures (an illegal process) needed to be implemented so that
these tribes could successfully be moved along toward final extermination, comes
this incredible statement dated July 12, 1981:
"Accordingly, we strongly urge the Bureau to instigate a system to handle new assertions
of eligibility for IRA benefits in order to have a defensible position in the event
of litigation, which we consider a near certainty. Such a system could, with modification, be substantially a reinstitution of the prior decisional procedure or a
totally new concept."
Processes that are intended to address human rights and equity issues for California
indigenous claimants have been stonewalled and explicitly prevented from being enforced
for the benefit of these citizens and taxpayers by individuals within the government. This inhuman policy was rendered ILLEGAL in P.L.
103-263 yet civil servants paid by indigenous as well as mainstream tax dollars have since
1934 enacted an ongoing private policy based on "opinion" and "assumptions" of denial for
legal indigenous claims, claims specifically qualified and addressed by Congress.
Indigenous people "gain" a perspective from all this, one a little cynical perhaps.
All people can incorporate part of the critical outlook they need to analyze and
digest life in California from this, our unique experience to share.
The world has seen many such webs and the Constitution was a beautiful document freeing
"all men" from their tyranny...
Then, one treaty was concluded and ratified, in all fairness...it ought to have been enough
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Feb. 2, 1848
Guaranteed United States citizenship to Mexican citizens in California and recognition
of their land titles. Indigenous Californians were citizens in Mexican and Spanish
Law. Their absolute title to the State of California was clear...and acknowledged
by the united States in the words of Senator John Fremont,
who made this report to the President
on Sept 16, 1850...
Would this truth set anyone free, could it today?
But the new [non-white] citizens were needed for slaves, as assets for the squatters...justice
and equity begin their bizarre dance with modern California's embryonic mythologies
and economic power structures: government, agribusiness, immigration and resource manipulation. Indigenous Californians were in the way.
Opponents to negotiated treaties in the
U.S. Senate and in the California delegation (Governor and influential citizens)
forced the treaties to be hidden away so economic interests could run amok.
Eighteen treaties were in fact,
negotiated to secure legal title to public domain land and guaranteeing reserved
lands and protection from white violence toward indigenous Californians in 1851-1852.
These treaties were never debated (thus not appearing in the Congressional Record)
and instead were hidden and remained so until discovered in the early 1900's, then
denied. Meanwhile, indigenous Californians enjoyed the protection of the 1850 ACT
and life in the new state...the population of these people, about 200,000 -300,000 in 1848,
was reduced to 15,238 by 1890.
Indian Canyon in San Benito County, years after Ishi was proclaimed the "last Indian"
. The newly rediscovered 1852 treaties were a legal carbuncle. Academia (the University
of California at the forefront) was codifying cultural elements of living indigenous
communities and at the same time lending credence to the myth of their extinction.
Sebastian Garcia was very much alive and well on his Individual Indian Allotment a
few miles south of Berkeley (UC) and it's budding Anthropology department
Howard Harris, local Hollister rancher (related in June, 1995) his boyhood
visit to the canyon with his uncle, a visit to hire "extinct" Indians, one which
opened his eyes. I taped Howard at his Hollister home. He told how a 1914 trip to hire Indians as labor with his uncle showed him that Indians and the culture were alive. (see our YouTube video with Howard on our home page)
"An old man was at the entrance to th ecanyon. He said everyone was up at the falls so my uncle and I walked up the creekside path. On the way we passed huts everywhere hidden in the deep canyon. We knew we were getting close when we smelled fragrant smoke and heard singing. Several small smudge fires burned bay (Mounatin Laurel) and sage. Men were clustered close to the base of a small waterfall in a chasm. Women stood further away, singing in their language. We waited until they were done then talked and hired two men to help build a barn."
Survival and extermination of indigenous communities is empowered by the contradictions and absurdities
obvious in culturally myopic assumptions, in popular mythology and in alternative
interpretations of fact and events.