Updated April 26, 2008 6:43 PM
During the Mission period (1697-1834), California's Indigenous people resisted in many ways the restrictions that the Padres seemed to think were desirable for their neophytes, willing or otherwise. Santa Cruz Mission was attacked by some indigenous resistance fighters who were pursuing their rights to life and liberty. (We are compiling more information on Indigenous resistance to European incursions, in the period before United States possession, in California)
From owners and occupants of most of California in 1848 to becoming slaves and being massacred by Americans in 1850-1870, the California Indians were subject to barbaric treatment by squatters and settlers. In 1850, California passed a law unprecedented in its convoluted morality, beginning with its name: An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. Amended in 1860 to make the child slavery business more efficient, these Acts were incredible in scope and in what they tell us about indigenous life 145 years (2 lifetimes) ago.
The provisions of these acts for "the welfare and protection" of the Indians were a complete joke, as provision 6 of the 1850 law guaranteed. Beyond the legal non-existence imposed on Indians by the law, American racist hatred of these people insured that no one testified against a fellow white man for the sake of an Indian under these or any other laws and since Indian testimony could never convict a white man of anything, all human rights provisions of this law were rendered utterly useless.
At this same time, the Land Claims Act of 1851 was enacted saying that any claims for pre-existing land claims (Mexican period) had to be submitted by 1853, when any land not claimed would become United States public domain and if not already stolen, appropriated or squatted on would available for homesteading and mining claims, etc. Before this particular land claims litigation was settled, the 1850 Act had already taken effect and Indians were already declared vagrant and being run down. Of course no one told the Indians about the need to submit land claims while they were desperately busy enjoying the benefits of the previously mentioned Act for their "protection" and none submitted claims. In fact, the State of California was legally bound to enter claims for them to the claims commission and refused to do so and no effort was made to inform the Indians of the need to submit claims on their own behalf. In fact, many Mexican land owners were also swindled out of existing land grants and ranchos as a result of this act. All this in blatant and open violation of the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo which ensured the property rights of Mexican citizens (Indian landowners qualified under Mexican law) existing at the time of the execution of that treaty.
Incredibly, after Congressional acknowledgment of the true legal status of California Indians as the owners of California land under American law, and while the 1850 Act and the Land Claims Act were newly being put into effect three treaty commissioners were traveling the State in 1851-1852 securing the signatures of over 400 chiefs and leaders in order to secure the legal title to California in exchange for 8.5 million acres of lands already occupied by thousands of Indians and supplies and services. Due to pressure exerted by the California governor and Congressional delegation, these 18 signed treaties were hidden in Washington and never voted on or ratified while the more convenient California laws ran their course. Relevant Pages