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 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 quiet.

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...

The Constitution of the United States, June 21, 1788

Then, one treaty was concluded and ratified, in all 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.


Costanoan-Ohlone home page.