California Genocide
© J. R. Browne

California Genocide

History of the United States

California Genocide
Protecting The Settlers ©J. R. Browne
1846 Jan 1 - 1873

California Genocide

California, USA

The California genocide was the killing of thousands of indigenous peoples of California by United States government agents and private citizens in the 19th century. It began following the American Conquest of California from Mexico, and the influx of settlers due to the California Gold Rush, which accelerated the decline of the indigenous population of California. Between 1846 and 1873, it is estimated that non-Natives killed between 9,492 and 16,094 California Natives. Hundreds to thousands were additionally starved or worked to death.[52] Acts of enslavement, kidnapping, rape, child separation and displacement were widespread. These acts were encouraged, tolerated, and carried out by state authorities and militias.[53]


The 1925 book Handbook of the Indians of California estimated that the indigenous population of California decreased from perhaps as many as 150,000 in 1848 to 30,000 in 1870 and fell further to 16,000 in 1900. The decline was caused by disease, low birth rates, starvation, killings, and massacres. California Natives, particularly during the Gold Rush, were targeted in killings.[54] Between 10,000[55] and 27,000[56] were also taken as forced labor by settlers. The state of California used its institutions to favor white settlers' rights over indigenous rights, dispossessing natives.[57]


Since the 2000s several American academics and activist organizations, both Native American and European American, have characterized the period immediately following the U.S. Conquest of California as one in which the state and federal governments waged genocide against the Native Americans in the territory. In 2019, California's governor Gavin Newsom apologized for the genocide and called for a research group to be formed to better understand the topic and inform future generations.

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