Between 1850-1900 California settlers made the Spanish look like boy scouts when it came to killing, raping and pillaging in an obscene land grab begun by the gold rush. Malcom Harris’ new book, Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism and The World lays out the gruesome history that led to Silicon Valley becoming the economic powerhouse it is today.
California has always been well populated, even before the Spanish and white settlers moved in. In 1790, the population was approximately 300,000. Some 30 tribes or culture groups representing 6 different language groups lived in “Alta California” The cultural diversity was among the densest in North America and is thought to be the result of migration or invasions over the last 13,000 years.
Tribes were obliterated by settlers, thanks to laws making it easy for settlers from the east (particularly disgruntled confederates) to live out their blood-thirsty dreams of conquest in order to put as many white people on as much land as quickly as possible to fend off any more Spanish or Mexican claims to the territory. Less than 25 tribes still remain.*
*=reservations with over 500 people.
Whiteness endured as California’s core organizing principle. Using the courts(United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind 1923) and law enforcement turning a blind eye to abuse and vandalism against non-white land holders, white settlers were able to harass with impunity.
Stanford University and Palo Alto acted as incubator for leftist movements in Japan, India, and America, as well as the Hoover administration (Class of 1895), Radio, Television, a little thing called the Internet, suburban redlining and more, more, more. It’s a rollicking, eye-opening history of the area that made such an enormous impact on our country and the world.
The Plight Of The Ohlone
Prior to the gold rush of 1849, there were over 50 Ohlone tribes ranging in area from the San Francisco bay to Salinas Valley. In 1925, Hearst Museum of Anthropology director, Alfred Kroeber declared all the tribes extinct, directly leading to their losing federal recognition and land rights. Eight tribes have petitions pending for recognition to be restored.
Happy Rosh Hashanah!