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The Ahwahneechees: A Story of the Yosemite Indians (1966) by John W. Bingaman



On October 2, 1854, the "Alta California" published an article in which it was stated that abducting Indian children had become quite a common practice. Many children belonging to some of the Indian tribes in the northern part of the State were stolen, and were taken to the southern part of the State, and there sold.

On May 23, 1857, the Butte County Record noted the presence in Chico of a Mexican, "who has been in the habit of stealing Indian children and selling them to Mexican rancheros in southern California."

Accounts from Petaluma Journal, and Marysville Appeal, of December 6, 1861, contained the following. "It is from these mountain tribes that white settlers draw their supplies of kipnapped children, educated as servants, and women for purposes of labor, and of lust. It is notorious that there are parties in the northern counties of this state, whose sole occupation has been to steal young children, and squaws from the poor Diggers, who inhabit the mountains, and disposed of them at handsome prices to the settlers, who being in the majority of cases unmarried but good at housekeeping, willingly pay fifty or sixty dollars for young Digger to cook and wait upon them, or a hundred dollars or a likely young girl."

Kidnaping went on as late as 1861 and 1864. There were reports of up to two hundred and fifty kidnapings in 1862. The practice began about 1852, and continued at least till 1867. It was during these fifteen years, perhaps between three and four thousand children were stolen. This estimate would not include squaws taken for concubinage or adults for field labor.

The effect on the Indians of this peculiarly Yankee kidnaping industry was exasperating to the highest degree. It was not only an irritant which drove some of them to physical and violent retaliation; it intensified and prolonged their aversion to the type of labor in which the kidnaped persons were employed.

The most dominant diseases were syphilis, tuberculosis, and dysenteries. Most Indian deaths were due to these.

Syphilis appeared in upper California certainly within the first decade of settlement. The conventional story attributed its introduction to the de Anza expedition to Los Angeles in 1777. Thus Miguel and Zalvidea state that this putrid and contagious disease had its beginning with the time Don Juan Bautista de Anza stopped at the Mission San Gabriel with his expedition.

The very first expeditions were characterized by disorderly conduct with the Indian women on the part of the soldiers.

Epidemics were reported early in 1800 of pneumonia, diphtheria, measles, consumption, dysentery, and diarrhoea. Syphilis was reported in 1807. Smallpox was reported in 1833.

Sweeping epidemics of 1830 - 1840, and all sorts of diseases became established among the central California tribes. Losses from these epidemics from 1838 to 1848 may be up to 5,000 deaths. These occurred in the six tribes, Pomo, Wappo, Wintun, Maidu, Miwok, and Yokuts. Neglecting entirely possible mortality, even from syphilis, prior to 1830, it has been estimated that 4,500 perished in the 1833 pandemic, 2,000 in the smallpox scourge of 1837, and 5,000 from endemic. illness and secondary epidemics up to 1848. This gives a total of 11,500. The estimated aboriginal population of the six tribes would be about 58,900.

So white man’s diseases and habits took untold count of these six Indian Tribes, and surely left a black mark in the annals of the history of our State.

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management