Opinion

Opinion: There's time to right the wrongs against Indian people





Writer calls on Californians to confess to their sins against the state's first inhabitants:
When our ancestors arrived in California, they discovered more varieties of Native American tribes than in any other state. They entered into covenants – treaties – with more frequency than in any other state – and we have broken virtually all of them. That breaking has often been accompanied by violence of a unique ferocity.

The Natural Bridges Massacre is one of the worst examples. The gold miners of Weaverville lived in peace with the Nor-el Muk band of the Wintu nation, until a famine came and six Indians begged food from a hate-filled Weaverville grocer. He suggested they eat grass instead. When his body was found with grass stuffed in his mouth, a posse formed and reacted. They never found the suspects, but they murdered more than one hundred fifty women, children, and elderly Wintu at Natural Bridges for revenge. To this day, tourists and locals alike think of the area as a playground instead of the shrine it ought to be; graffiti covers the rocks where the dead are still not permitted to rest in peace.

Even worse was the Etna area massacre of Shasta people. Whites entered into a peace treaty with the tribe and – to celebrate – invited the tribe to a barbecue. They laced the beef with strychnine, and three thousand Shastans died. Those who did not succumb to the poison were gunned down as they fled. To this day, the federal government denies the event took place; but I saw xeroxed copies of contemporary newspaper accounts of the slaughter. It happened; denial only worsens the atrocity.

Get the Story:
James Wilson: Another Shot At Keeping The Covenant (Western Journalism 5/112)