The 1875 report concerning the character of the Indians, as well as their conditions and wants, provides a review of their history beginning with the establishment of the missions by Spain and the mission successes from 1769-1833. The report addresses the impact of Mexican Independence in 1822 and the issuance of private grants to “land grabbers,” particularly upon the passing of a bill to secularize the missions and introduced for the ostensible purpose of carrying out the original design of the missions. The Commissioner described the bill as the “pretext … covered very thinly a scheme to rob the Indians” laying waste the whole fabric of mission influence. The property and homes of thousands of Indians became the property of a few landlords with Mission Indians becoming practically outcasts, notwithstanding their love for their homes and willingness to work, with their condition was wretched in the extreme and become worse each year. Conflicts between the Indians and whites were constantly arising. The blame is placed upon the Government and Congress for failure to establish any practical means for the settlement of Indians. Commissioner Wetmore provided numerous recommendations on the areas of difficulty that needed to be addressed by the Government and Congress.
This 1877 report references 36 Tribes of California including, but not limited to, their habitats, customs, sustenance, mythology and language. The report concludes with chapters on General Facts regarding the natives of California, Aboriginal Botany and thoughts on prehistoric California. [Pages 4 and five of the Preface are missing.]
The history of California Indians is a different story from that of other ethnic groups who came in the last few centuries as immigrants to an already populated land. California is their homeland where their history spans more than 10,000 years of occupation. Unlike other groups who came to California to gain wealth or to escape undesirable conditions, California Indians lived in a land of plenty. Their material technology reflected what was necessary to meet their needs. Although it is often written about how Indians developed a means of living in harmony with their environment, this cultural lifestyle was more a reflection of numbers, the carrying capacity of the land, and personal needs.
The report is a commentary on those events, procedures, laws, and situations that confronted and greatly affected California Indians and their ability to survive once Europeans arrived. The reason it is important to tell this aspect of Indian history, rather than the more romantic story of how Indians lived in harmony with nature, is the same reason it is important to tell the history of any people — so we can learn from the mistakes of the past and try not to make those same mistakes in the future. Finally, we tell this history so that Indian people and non-Indian people might better understand why Indians have evolved as they have — why they are people attempting to retain their cultural identity while surviving in the modern world.
Printing is not supported at the primary Gallery Thumbnail page. Please first navigate to a specific Image before printing.