Reservation Era Begins 1850-1878

1851

California’s first elected governor promotes genocide

Peter Hardeman Burnett, first Governor of California.
Peter Hardeman Burnett, first Governor of California.

Peter Hardeman Burnett, in a second state of address, says, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected…. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.” Burnett sets aside state money to arm local militias against Natives and, with the help of the U.S. Army, distributes weapons to the militias, who are tasked with raiding tribal outposts and scalping and killing Native people. Local governments put bounties on Native scalps and pay settlers for stealing horses of the Native people they murder. According to the historian Benjamin Madley, about 100,000 Natives in California died during the first two years of the Gold Rush alone; by 1873, only 30,000 Indigenous people remain. At least 16,000 murders of Native Indians of California are documented during this time (Blakemore, 2019).

Traumatic Event