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Census of Non-reservation California Indians, 1905-1906 by Charles E. Kelsey; Robert F. Heizer, ed.


C. E. Kelsey

Editor’s Introduction

In 1905-06 Mr. C. E. Kelsey, an attorney of San Jose, was appointed as Special Indian Agent for the California Indians with the charge of ascertaining the number and location of Indians living outside of reservation lands. In 1906 Kelsey was the Secretary and one of eleven directors of the Northern California Indian Association which operated for the benefit of Indians. The census which he compiled was not published, but typescript copies (191 pp. on legal size paper) were presented by Kelsey to A. L. Kroeber and to C. Hart Merriam in 1906. The original copy is Presumably on file in Washington with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Kroeber’s copy is catalogued as Manuscript No. 59 in the collection of the Anthropology Department and the Lowie Museum on deposit in the University Archives, Main Library, Berkeley. Merriam’s copy1 was utilized by Kroeber and me in the California Indian claims cases (Dockets 31/37) of fifteen years ago, and this examination stimulated Kroeber to write his paper, “California Indian Population in 1910” in which he concluded that population numbers calculated by him earlier were too low by 20 to 25 percent2.

Beyond providing the general information that there were more Indians (a total of at least 20,000) in California in 1906 than anyone, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, believed (15-16,000), the Kelsey census provides for us an actual count. of the number of surviving native Californians in each of the 36 counties in which Kelsey made investigations. While he provides figures for 45 counties, nine of these he did not visit because he was called to Washington before he could find the time to do so, and the numbers listed for these counties (Marin, Merced, Sacramento, San Benito, Santa Cruz, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and Stanislaus) were taken from the last (1900) census figures for lack of anything better. three counties (San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano) reported no Indian settlements, and therefore do not enter into his schedule.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs wished to possess the information gathered by Kelsey in order to secure some basis for estimating the needs cf the landless California Indians living off reservation areas. A number cf small parcels of land were ultimately purchased for many of the persons listed in the census, and these locations are in part shown on a recently published map.3 Apparently Kelsey was aided in part by the 1900 U. S. Census figures which would at least indicate the general areas where there were Indians living. It is also probable that he consulted both Kroeber and Merriam for guidance since both were actively engaged in ethnographic studies, and could therefore offer suggestions as to where Indians were residing or might be located. It would appear that a good deal of travelling was involved, and that Kelsey must have had to work as rapidly as possible. For this reason he may have decided to collect only the minimal amount of information necessary, and for the same reason did not record marriage data or ages and sex of children. We may assume that Kroeber, rather than Merriam, provided him with some information on linguistic classification since the language stock names he employs are those which R. B. Dixon and Kroeber were using. As Kelsey moved about collecting names and numbers of Indians living off reservation lands, he also recorded the numeral systems of the persons in the locality where he was interviewing. These were collected with some care and employed the Webster dictionary method of phonetic recording (syllables hyphenated, long and short sounds indicated, etc.). Copies of the schedule of names for numbers (typewritten on 117 legal size sheets) are on file at Berkeley; it has never been published. It is not known why Kelsey made this numeral system record, but it may be suggested that the information would serve to identify the language family of the person providing the record and thus form the basis for his arranging the census by the language stock along with locality and county provenience. The date on which each of the 116 numeral systems was recorded is given. A few of these date from September, 1903; none bear a 1904 date, and most of them were taken down in August - December, 1905 and January - March and August, 1906. It can be inferred that in 1905-06 Kelsey spent approximately nine months making his survey of non-reservation Indians.

There are many possibilities for additional research in this document. One would be analysis of the surnames, some of which are nicknames bestowed in jest by Americans of an earlier period (e.g. John Howmuch, Teapot Kitty, Shoofly Sherman, One-eyed Jim, Whisky Bill). Some are obviously names in the native language which were not substituted for by more standard American surnames or given names (e.g. Mikeonalla Jim, Wamenhot, Kinmahley, Garfield Towendolly), though we note that such native names are quite rare.4 Most of the names of persons are of American or Spanish (i.e. Spanish-Mexican) origin, and the latter may go back to times before 1846 when California was seized from Mexico, or they may date from post-1848 times when the amalgamation of Indians and Mexican Californians was accelerated by their both being considered as groups to be kept socially apart from the new political power-population element which had preempted the land.

Another possible use of the Kelsey census would be as source material on the nature and size of the family unit. Unfortunately Kelsey did not record whether single men or women with children were widowed or divorced, the age of adults, or the sex and age of children. To some extent these data could be determined from other records such as the compilation of names, ages and residence of over 1000 native ethnographic informants5, and the Great Rolls of 1928 and 1950 drawn up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs6 and other BIA records. Such inquiry would be laborious, but the data on a large number of named and therefore identifiable individuals does exist.

The Kelsey census is given here exactly in the form in which it appears in the original. The reader is therefore assured that no editorial alteration has been made beyond an occasional addition for purposes of clarification or identification and which occur in square brackets.

Because the Kelsey census is in hand and has not been made generally available, it was thought that it would be useful to print it in order that others might have access to its contents. The reduction of funds assigned to the Archaeological Research Facility in 1971-72 has made possible only the most limited amount of publication. Under these circumstances, it is with particular gratitude that we express our appreciation to Mr. Raymond Ickes of Berkeley for offering to underwrite the cost of publishing the Kelsey census. Anyone who uses the census, we are confident, will echo this acknowledgment to him for making it possible to provide the information to a wider audience.

Robert F. Heizer


1. Bearing the handwritten note “Given me by Mr. Kelsey, November 4, 1906. C.H.M.”

2. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 218-225, 1957. Kroeber here cites (p. 220) the official BIA figures for Indians living on reservations in 1905 as 6,536 persons. Adding this number to Kelsey’s non-reservation Indians in northern California (13,361) gives a total of 19,897 which is surely too small for the actual total number in the state since no figures are available for non-reservation Indians of southern California at this time. The federal census of 1910 counted 12,965 Indians in California, an official figure which was probably only about fifty percent of the actual number of then living Indians in the state.

3. S. P. Teale (Chairman). Progress Report to the Governor and the Legislature by the State Advisory Commission on Indian Affairs (Senate Bill No. 1007) on Indians in Rural and Reservation Areas. Sacramento, 1966. (Contains untitled loose folded map showing addresses of Indians in 1965; referred to on p. 21).

4. Published lists of names of Indians living before 1900 are rare. One such list is the 114 names of Indians indentured in Humboldt County between 1860 and 1863 which can be found in R. F. Heizer and A. J. Almquist, The Other Californians (Univ. of Calif. Press, 1971, pp. 54-56). Nearly all of these persons are recorded by their given name only which is either a common American name (e.g. Sarah, Ella, Mary, Charley, George) or more rarely a nickname (e.g. Indian Henry, Mad River Billy, Blue Coat Mowwena, Sorenose Jack, Sam Houston, George Washington Donally, Blackhawk). The surname of these unfortunate indentured individuals was no doubt adopted from the white man, or woman, in whose custody they were placed until they reached the age of 30 for males or 25 for females. Names of Indians in large numbers could be secured from the rosters of persons attached to the several reservations which were established in California as early as 1853. These records are filed in the U. S. National Archives.

5. R. F. Heizer. “The Human Sources of California Ethnography.[”] Ms to be published in Vol. VIII of Handbook of North American Indians, W. Sturtevant, ed.

6. The 1928 Roll is filed in the Sacramento office of the BIA. See also A. L. Kroeber and R. F. Heizer, “Continuity of Indian Population in California from 1770/1850 to 1955”, Univ. of Calif. Archaeol. Research Facility, Contribution No. 9, pp. 1-22, 1970 (Berkeley). As an example of the rich detail of the 1928 Roll, see R. F. Heizer, “A Chumash ‘Census’ of 1928-1930”, Univ. of Calif. Archaeol. Research Facility, Contribution No. 9, pp. 23-28, 1970 (Berkeley). S. F. Cook has carried out some analysis of the 1928 Roll in his “Trends in Marriage and Divorce Since 1850”, Ibero-Americana No. 24, 1943 (Berkeley); “Racial Fusion Among the California and Nevada Indians”, Human Biology, Vol. 15, pp. 153-165, 1943; and “Migration and Urbanization of the Indians of California”, Human Biology, Vol. 15, pp. 33-45.

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