Alta California

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1. Five years ago [John F. Kennedy] said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
  •      What does Dr. King mean when he says that the United States must undergo a “revolution of values”? What values does he think will need to change? What values does he think will need to be adopted?
  2. Dr. King claims that the “Western nations” have “initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world”.
  •      What events is he referring to?
  •      Why does he think these Western nations have become “arch anti-revolutionaries”?
 
  1. Throughout his Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King asks his audience to “choose”, “decide”, and ‘act’.
  •      What is he asking people to ‘choose’, ‘decide’, and ‘do’?
  •      What did he ‘choose’, ‘decide’, and ‘do’?
  •      In terms of the themes brought up in the speech (including racism, materialism, and militarism), what can you ‘choose’, ‘decide’, and ‘do’?
 
  1. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
  •      Why does Dr. King refer to war as “an enemy of the poor”?
  5. What does Dr. King mean by the term “land reform”?   6. What is napalm and how is it related to Dr. King’s comparison of the United State’s military in Vietnam and the Nazis in Germany?   7. What were the impacts of the Beyond Vietnam speech on Dr. King’s public image? Why?   8. What are the “five concrete things” that Dr. King suggests the United States government do to disentangle itself from the military conflict in Vietnam? What are some further measures that Dr. King suggests should be part of the U.S.’s “ongoing commitment” to the Vietnamese people?   9. Cite examples from the text where Dr. King describes who suffers from war (both in general and specifically in the Vietnam conflict). Cite examples from the text where Dr. King describes who profits from war (both in general and specifically in the Vietnam conflict).   10. Dr. King describes the war in Vietnam as a “symptom of a far deeper malady in the American spirit”. What is the malady (sickness) he is referring to? How do the countries he mentions in the following paragraphs relate to this sickness?   11. In your own words, describe what you think slain President John F. Kennedy meant when he said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.   12. Where does the title of this speech—Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence—come from? Do you think this is a fitting title? Why or why not? What would you title this speech if you had to come up with a different name for it today?  
1. What can students infer from Do D.A.T's words, "I can't get beyond Vietnam, it's on my front lawn, same soldiers different uniforms"? What else from the track supports this inference? What are some examples of things said explicitly in the track? What about implicitly? (9/10 Lit, Key) 2. The legacy of Dr. King can be seen in several ways. Many people are familiar with other of his speeches such as the I Have a Dream speech. Why does Do D.A.T choose to rap about Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech and how does his treatment of Dr. King differ from other accounts you have seen or heard? 3. In the second verse of Martin Beyond Vietnam, Do D.A.T. uses the verbs “conditioned” and “programmed” in consecutive lines.
  •      Why do you think Do D.A.T. used such similar verbs in such close proximity?
  •      What idea(s) does he convey with his word choice?
4. When talking about armed law enforcement in his neighborhood, Do D.A.T. says “I don’t even notice anymore, ‘cause I been militarized since I was four”.
  •      How can the normalization of militarized policing impact the perceptions and behaviors of residents of those communities?
  •      What are your experiences with armed law enforcement? How have those experiences shaped your perceptions and behaviors?
5. What Dr. King refers to as “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism” are difficult topics to discuss.
  •      What are some obstacles in the way of discussing them?
  •      What are ways that we can nurture and support the ability for us to have sustained dialogue about difficult topics?
6. What can you infer from Do D.A.T's words, "I can't get beyond Vietnam, it's on my front lawn, same soldiers different uniforms"? What else from the track supports this inference? What are some examples of things said explicitly in the track? What about implicitly? 7. How does the inclusion of samples from Dr. King’s speech influence the narrative of the Martin Beyond Vietnam track? (9/10 Lit, Integration) 8. Why does Do D.A.T bring in parts of history (Dr. King and his Beyond Vietnam speech) to talk about the present (racism, militarized police, etc.)? 9. Do D.A.T describes something as "ironic" - what is he describing and what does he mean by "ironic"? 10. The lyrics in the track are carefully chosen - what is the effect of the Do D.A.T.’s word choice? For example, what does he mean by "sedated stupor"? What other language in the track is related to this metaphor? Is the artist's language effective? Why/why not? (11/12 Lit, C&S) 11. What are some of the opinions expressed in the Martin Beyond Vietnam track? (9/10 IT, C&S) 12. What concepts connect Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech and Do D.A.T.’s Martin Beyond Vietnam lyrics? 13. Do D.A.T talks about "militarization" - what does he mean by this? What other political/social/economic issues are raised in the track and what are the words used to talk about them? (9/10 H&SS, C&S) 14. The Vietnam War, police brutality, and racism in the US are themes that come up in both Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech and Do. D.A.T.’s Martin Beyond Vietnam lyrics - how have these issues come up in other school materials you have seen? (9/10 H&SS, Integration)
Civil Rights Movement: The Civil Rights Movement is often the term used to describe the Black-led, Southern-based struggle for equal rights that coalesced during Reconstruction and came to a head in the in the 1960s. Rooted in the struggle against legally mandated structures of white supremacy, the organizing of Black communities enshrined significant legal victories that still stand today (most notably the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964). The aims of the Civil Rights Movement, however, went beyond legal reform and thus some participants and observers refer to the movement more broadly as “The Freedom Movement”. Vincent Harding, a major figure in the Movement and author of the first draft of Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, said that the ‘civil rights’ title was not adequate to describe what was going on and that the Movement was instead, “nothing less than an historic effort to expand and deepen democracy for all people.” Indeed, the tradition of Black organizing for community power and of direct action and civil disobedience has inspired the strategy of many social justice movements since, both in the United States and abroad. Conscientious Objector (CO): An official classification by the US government that a person can apply for to abstain from military service. During a time of war, a draftee can apply to be classified as a CO and may be granted an alternative placement to combat. Throughout the Vietnam War, many draftees petitioned to be granted the status of Conscientious Objector because their political convictions and/or religious beliefs were against the war. Ultimately, the decision to grant or deny a draftee CO status is made by the federal government’s Selective Service System.¹ Draft (military): The process used by the federal government to force people to enlist in the armed forces when volunteer-filled positions are determined to be insufficient for a particular conflict. In the United States, men are required to register with the military at age 18 so that they can be drafted as needed. Empathy: The feeling that you understand someone else’s experiences or emotions. Empathy is different than ‘sympathy’, which is more about feeling bad about someone else’s misfortune without understanding or sharing it. Can you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes or try to imagine what it would be like to experience parts of another’s life? Land Reform: Government actions taken to distribute agricultural land more equitably, usually prompted by the organized action of poor farmers. Redistributing land is a way to redistribute wealth and power in a society, particularly when agriculture is a significant part of economic activity. The most common political objective of land reform is to abolish feudal or colonial forms of land-ownership, often by taking land away from large landowners and redistributing it to landless peasants. Other goals include improving the social status of peasants and coordinating agricultural production with industrialization programs. In the period surrounding the Vietnam War, many communist and socialist governments, including that of North Vietnam, had land reform as a central and popular part of their agenda.² Materialism:  A way of thinking and acting that gives too much importance to material possessions and consumption rather than people, ideas, or justice. In his Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King insists that, “[w]e must begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”³ Militarism:  The opinions or actions of people who believe that a country should use military force to gain power and to achieve its goals. Militarism in the United States shows up in government actions such as foreign military intervention and arming domestic police forces with military equipment, and shows up in popular culture with ideas such as ‘might makes right’.ª Napalm: Napalm (naphthenic palmitic acid) is an incendiary weapon invented at Harvard University in secret during World War II. It is an extremely flammable, gasoline-based defoliant (plant-killing) and antipersonnel (people-killing) weapon that can generate temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees and sticks to whatever it lands on, including human skin. Napalm was a weapon that was widely used by the U.S. and its allies during the Vietnam War, resulting in the incineration of millions of acres of land, along with the loss of countless thousands of Vietnamese lives. Napalm was also used for its ability to strike terror in its targets as part of a campaign of psychological warfare. Many United Nations members signed a 1981 treaty that banning the use of napalm, with the conspicuous exception of the United States.º Racism: Racism is both the individual prejudices that a person might hold about a specific race being inferior in social, moral, or biological traits, as well as the social structures that help to create and perpetuate these myths. Racism works to ensure that those who have had power remain in charge. In the United States, racism is based on the ideology of White (European) supremacy and is used to the advantage of White people and the disadvantage of people of color.ˆ Recognition (political/diplomatic): Each nation is said to have the same sovereign authority, meaning the power to govern itself without interference from any other nation. When one nation ‘recognizes’ another, it acknowledges the other’s sovereign will. North Vietnam was never recognized as a nation by the United States, but was recognized by other powerful nations such as China and the USSR. Revolution (political, social): A profound change in the political and/or social structures of a society, usually brought about by a populist groundswell or uprising. Revolution can be peaceful, violent, directed at one ruler or form of government, or aimed at a broader culture. In his Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King explicitly refers both to political revolution (the change of forms of government) and a “revolution of values” such as the change in cultural views on justice, militarism, poverty and wealth. The West: Often used to describe the intellectual, religious, and social history of the area now defined by western Europe, in contrast to that of the “East” or the societies, current and past, found in Asia. In modern contexts, “the West” is often used to describe the military powers of the United States and other non-communist countries in Europe and North America where free-market capitalism is practiced.   ¹adapted from http://www.sss.gov/FSconsobj.htm ²adapted from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/land%20reform ³adapted from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/materialism ªadapted from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/militarism ºadapted from http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1859.html ˆadapted from: Enid Lee, Deborah Menkart and Margo Okazawa-Rey (eds.) Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development    
Street Spirit is a publication of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)  that reports extensively on homelessness, poverty, economic inequality, welfare issues, human rights issues and the struggle for social justice. Street Spirit and its Editor, Terry Messman, have dedicated a lot of time and energy to covering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his vision for economic and social justice, and how they intertwine with race, militarism, poverty, and nonviolent activism. The following links will take you to selected Street Spirit articles that highlight Dr. King’s legacy and the ongoing work of his collaborators, including Vincent Harding, who wrote the first draft of Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech. Vincent Harding and the Legacy of the Southern Freedom Movement (5/4/13) The Street Spirit Interview with Vincent Harding (5/4/13) Keeper of the Dream: Bernard Lafayette Carries on the Living Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement (6/7/13) The Street Spirit Interview with Bernard Lafayette (6/7/13)  
  Youth Radio is an award-winning media production company that trains diverse young people in digital media and technology.  Partnering with industry professionals, students learn to produce marketable media for massive audiences while bringing youth perspectives to issues of public concern. Youth Radio teens and teachers sat down together to come up with a lesson plan for how educators can facilitate a productive conversation about race, police and violence, grounded in a collection of stories created by Youth Radio’s reporters and commentators:  DIY Toolkit: How Teens Want You To Teach #BlackLivesMatter (12/22/14) In the wake of a delayed school year in Ferguson, Missouri, Assistant Professor of History Marcia Chatelain started the #FergusonSyllabus Twitter campaign as a way for educators to share ideas on how to talk about Ferguson in their classrooms. “I wanted to help other professors find a way to talk about this tragedy in the context of how it would affect our students’ first day of school,” Chatelain explained. With books and articles for every age, the crowdsourced syllabus addresses race, policing, African American history, and civil rights in the United States. Below are links to an interview with Professor Chatelain and an article she wrote in The Atlantic detailing the #FergusonSyllabus. How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson: A crowdsourced syllabus about race, African American history, civil rights, and policing. (8/25/14) The #Ferguson Syllabus (8/27/14)
The Martin Beyond Vietnam track and extension questions are aligned with the California Common Core State Standards for 9th-12th grades. Reproduced below are the standards that most directly relate to Martin Beyond Vietnam, and you can click the following link for a full list of the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

Grade Level Standards

Grade 9-10 Students

Grade 11-12 Students

Literature

Key Ideas & Details

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. (p 49) Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters/archetypes are introduced and developed). (p 49)

Craft & Structure

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone). (p 49) Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (p 49)

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas

Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (p 50)

Informational Text

Craft & Structure

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose. (p 53) Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging (p 53)

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas

Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts. (p 54)

History & Social Studies

Key Ideas & Details

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source (p 81) Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. (p81)

Craft & Structure

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science. (p 81)  

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. (p82) Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. (p82)
martin-luther-king Almost 50 years later, the issues that Dr. King raised in his speech are still hauntingly relevant to the poverty, racism, and militarism that face us in the United States and around the globe. (more…)
This text is added for the inline html section as a test, also I changed the slide type to static just to see if that works?



Courtesy of The Bancroft Library  University of California, Berkeley

For millennia before Europeans arrived, California was an inhabited land. Every part of the region had long been discovered, walked, or settled by native people by the time Spaniards first landed on the shores of San Diego Bay in 1542. (Anderson, 13-14)

The Spanish first set foot in Alta California in 1542 when a maritime expedition led by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in what is now the bay of San Diego. However, it would be over two centuries before the first serious attempts to settle in Alta California began. Represented by Father Junipero Serra, Capt. Gaspar Portola, and other members of the “Sacred Expedition”, the Spanish first settled in what is now California in 1769 (NPS). The members of this first overland expedition were a motley crew, including white peninsularesmestizos from what is now Northern Mexico, and mullatos with some African heritage. Although they were the first European subjects to set up permanent settlement in what would be one of the last colonial frontiers of the Americas, they were not the only Europeans around. Russian fur trappers, English and American traders[1], and French explorers all visited the waters and ports of Alta California with various interests in mind. At the time there were hundreds of thousands of indigenous folks living here with thriving cultures, but the religious and economic beliefs of the Spanish led them to believe that Alta California was a wilderness where only godless savages lived. The Spanish established missions to “save souls” and administer the territory. They also set up big farms, or ranchos, to produce food and other goods for the colony while controlling Native labor and teaching the Indians farming techniques.

The arrival of the Spanish in Alta California marked the beginning of a period of crisis for the indigenous population that has continued to today. Hundreds of thousands of Native Californians died within the first hundred years of Spanish settlement in Alta California, largely through murder, disease, and overwork. The indigenous population of around 300,000 in 1769 dropped to only 30,000 by 1860 (Anderson et al., 18). Those Indians that did survive saw their cultures shattered under the weight of the death and dislocation brought by the Spanish conquest; the emotional, political, and social tolls were devastating. Indigenous folks were often treated harshly and were not given the rights to life, property, or self-determination enjoyed by “gente de razon”, or ‘people of reason’ as the Spanish referred to themselves.

Although they were successful in devestating Native Californian ways of life and setting up a string of missions, presidios, and pueblos, the Spanish never controlled Alta California as completely as they would have liked. They were constantly competing with other European colonial powers that lurked nearby, struggling with Native resistance in many forms including a handful of armed revolts at the missions and stiff resistance to Spanish forays into the interior of the territory, and fighting amongst themselves over land and Native labor.

 


[1] At this time the United States of America was only a collection of a few former colonies on the East Coast just having declared independence from Great Britain. 

The Spanish first set foot in Alta California in 1542 when a maritime expedition led by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in what is now the bay of San Diego. However, it would be over two centuries before the first serious attempts to settle in Alta California began. Represented by Father Junipero Serra, Capt. Gaspar Portola, and other members of the “Sacred Expedition”, the Spanish first settled in what is now California in 1769 (NPS). The members of this first overland expedition were a motley crew, including white peninsulares, mestizos from what is now Northern Mexico, and mullatos with some African heritage.
Although they were the first European subjects to set up permanent settlement in what would be one of the last colonial frontiers of the Americas, they were not the only Europeans around. Russian fur trappers, English and American traders[1], and French explorers all visited the waters and ports of Alta California with various interests in mind. At the time there were hundreds of thousands of indigenous folks living here with thriving cultures, but the religious and economic beliefs of the Spanish led them to believe that Alta California was a wilderness where only godless savages lived. The Spanish established missions to “save souls” and administer the territory. They also set up big farms, or ranchos, to produce food and other goods for the colony while controlling Native labor and teaching the Indians farming techniques.
Alta California

Alta California Aligned Standards

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Coming Soon: A Taxonomy of Toxins

What toxins, poison, and venom have in common is that they can all put a hurting on you. But what makes them different? ‘A Taxonomy […]

The Alta California Bear & Bull Fights poster is aligned with the History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools. Reproduced below are the 4th grade standards that most directly align with the poster and related materials on this site. For the full list of History-Social Science Content Standards, check out the California State Board of Education website.

California: A Changing State

Students learn the story of their home state, unique in American history in terms of its vast and varied geography, its many waves of immigration beginning with pre-Columbian societies, its continuous diversity, economic energy, and rapid growth. In addition to the specific treatment of milestones in California history, students examine the state in the context of the rest of the nation, with an emphasis on the U.S. Constitution and the relationship between state and federal government.

4.2 Students describe the social, political, cultural, and economic life and interactions among people of California from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish mission and Mexican rancho periods.

3. Describe the Spanish exploration and colonization of California, including the relationships among soldiers, missionaries, and Indians (e.g., Juan Crespi, Junipero Serra, Gaspar de Portola).

4. Describe the mapping of, geographic basis of, and economic factors in the placement and function of the Spanish missions; and understand how the mission system expanded the influence of Spain and Catholicism throughout New Spain and Latin America.

5. Describe the daily lives of the people, native and nonnative, who occupied the presidios, missions, ranchos, and pueblos.

6. Discuss the role of the Franciscans in changing the economy of California from a hunter-gatherer economy to an agricultural economy.

7. Describe the effects of the Mexican War for Independence on Alta California, including its effects on the territorial boundaries of North America.

8. Discuss the period of Mexican rule in California and its attributes, including land grants, secularization of the missions, and the rise of the rancho economy.

 

Alta California Glossary

Alta California

Bear & Bull Fights Glossary

Hide & Tallow– Hide and tallow are the two cattle products that made up the biggest industry in Alta California. Cow hides were sold to mostly Anglo-American merchants to be shipped to the eastern United States and turned into shoes and other leather products. Tallow is a product of beef fat that was widely used for making soap and candles, much of which was sold to silver miners in Peru. (Hackel, 133)

La Reata (Spanish)— The lasso. A synonym for lasso, ‘lariat’ is an Anglo corruption of ‘la reata’.

Mission (Spanish)- the missions were the churches that formed the center of Spanish colonial life in Alta California. The missions and the priests that administered them controlled the use of Native labor and the most desirable agricultural land, making them the most powerful force on the Alta California frontier from their founding until the 1830s.

Modoc—a Native American tribe whose homeland is what is now Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Shasta—a Native American tribe whose homeland is what is now Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Rancho (Spanish)—Ranch

Sacred Expedition—refers to the 1769 expedition from Baja California led by Father Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar de Portola which first established a Spanish presence in Alta California. The expedition consisted of both ships and overland parties and ended with the establishment of the cities of San Diego and Monterey.

Gente de Razon (Spanish)—literally, “People of Reason”; used to refer to any non-Indian person (with the implication that Native people were ‘without reason’…)

Madrugada (Spanish)—very early morning; dawn

Pueblo (Spanish)—Town; in Alta California, civilian towns were kept apart from the mission settlements in large part because the mission priests believed that Native folks would be corrupted by the behaviors of non-Native immigrants

Presidio (Spanish)—Military fort

Peninsulares (Spanish)—literally, “People of the Peninsula”; used to refer to people born in Spain to distinguish them from people of Spanish descent who were born elsewhere (particularly the ‘New World’). In the Spanish colonial social hierarchy, a peninsulare would have more status than somebody of similar standing born outside of Spain.

Mestizo (Spanish)—a person of mixed Spanish and Native American ancestry

Mullato (Spanish)—a person of mixed Spanish and African ancestry

Manifest Destiny—the widely held and state-supported belief in 19th century U.S. popular culture that it was The United States’ God-given right and destiny to extend the nation from coast to coast on the North American continent. This belief manifested in land grabs, murder, forced displacement, and genocide which cleared the way for the United States to realize its goal of creating one nation that stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Prospector—a person who explores an area for mineral deposits or oil. ‘Prospector’ is a more appropriate term for the California Gold Rushers than ‘miner’ there were actually not many big mines in California at the time

Genocide—the deliberate destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group, in whole or in part.  

1848-1850: Gold, Swindlers, and Statehood.

Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

Courtesy of The Bancroft Library  University of California, Berkeley

Soon after the discovery of gold in 1848, California swelled with prospectors from every populated continent in the world. People poured into the territory in numbers never seen before, all seeking to find fortune in the gold fields and haphazard supply camps that sprung up around them. It was a time of great uncertainty and violence—the old political and social orders of the Californios were being trampled and replaced by American ways. Prominent Californio families were swindled out of the land that had been granted them by the Spanish crown, or, more recently, the Mexican government. Killings over gambling or gold field claims were common and the lives of Indians and Californios were expendable in the eyes of many of the new settlers. William B. Ide, himself an enthusiastic supporter of the American takeover of California, lamented what came when the ‘Gold Rush’ crowd showed up:

All law and civil process is suspended—thefts, robbery, manslaughter and murder are perpetrated without inquest. Our cattle and hogs are killed to feed a foreign banditti, and ourselves are threatened with assassination if we resist. (Rosenus, 201)

Mariano Vallejo, a prominent Californio, echoed Ide’s estimation of the gold prospectors by labeling them a “swollen torrent of shysters who came from Missouri and other states of the Union.”(Rosenus, 200)

In 1850, California was admitted as the 31st State of the United States. Most Americans felt that the death of certain cultures, peoples, and animals was the natural cost of modernization. The grizzly bear was hunted to extinction in California and genocide was perpetrated against the remaining Native population. Peter Hardeman Burnett, the first Governor of American California, declared in 1851, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian races become 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”(Lucas).  Others were more enthusiastic about the prospect of exterminating Native peoples, and for decades Indigenous Californians were hunted, murdered, kidnapped, and enslaved with support from local, state, and federal governments (gjohnsits). Even in this official push to exterminate Indigenous men, women, and children, the new California political and social elites sought to cast the state in a light of progress and respectability. In this landscape, the violent spectacle of the bear and bull fights were considered uncouth and soon they were banned.

It was less than one hundred years from the time the Spanish came to Alta California with their bulls to the time The United States took the territory over and bear and bull fights were outlawed. Within this time in California’s history a whole lot was happening and changing. The bear and bull fights of this period provide a metaphor for a period of time when foreign and native forces struggled to determine the destiny of Alta California and the lives they had created in it, violence was seemingly everywhere, and certain creatures and cultures were pushed to the brink of extinction and beyond.


Alta California:  HOME

First, Bears.

First, Bears.

And Then People.

And Then People.

The Old World Crashes the Party.

1542-1769:  
The Old World Crashes the Party.
La Madrugada de Mexico.

1810-1821:  
La Madrugada de Mexico.

Yankee Takeover

1846-1848: Yankee Takeover.
Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

1848-1850: Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

Crawling with Yankees

1846-1848: Yankee Takeover

Free Poster Program

Coming Soon: A Taxonomy of Toxins

What toxins, poison, and venom have in common is that they can all put a hurting on you. But what makes them different? ‘A Taxonomy […]

Courtesy of The Bancroft Library  University of California, Berkeley

As the middle of the 1800s approached, American’s ideas of Manifest Destiny changed the population and political dynamics of Alta California very quickly. The United States was a young nation, hungry for territorial expansion and quick to justify the taking of land from Native folks and anybody else, really. Many Americans, including President James Polk, believed that it was the destiny of the Nation to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean all the way across the continent to Alta California’s Pacific coast.

When it came to Alta California, Americans[1] used culturally biased judgments to explain why they could steal land that had been claimed by Spanish, Mexican, and Native peoples. Contemporary lawyer Richard Henry Dana gives us a glimpse of popular American attitudes of the time:

 The [Californio] men are thriftless, proud, extravagant, and very much given to gaming; and the women have but little education, and a good deal of beauty, and their morality of course is none the best… In the hands of an enterprising people, what a country this might be! (Monroy)

 American settlement in California had begun in small numbers before the 1840s with little official support from the U.S. government. The United States was very interested in what was going on in California, but wanted to appear not as instigators of aggressive land grabs, but as guardians of the continent against European colonial powers. United States Secretary of State James Buchanan explained as much in a letter responding to Thomas Larkin, an American trader who had settled in California:

 [The United States] would vigorously interpose to prevent…[California] from becoming a British or French Colony…whilst the President will make no effort and use no influence to induce California to become one of the free and independent States of this Union, yet if the People should desire to unite their destiny with ours, they would be received as brethren. (Nunis)

 Although American politicians were in the habit of using lofty language of ‘enterprise’, ‘freedom’, and ‘independence’, it was an ugly war that actually settled the matter of who would control Alta California going forward. The Mexican-American War was manufactured by American settlers in Texas in 1846 and ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 which gave the United States possession of the land that now includes the states of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Ulysses S. Grant, who soon went on to fame as a celebrated general during the U.S. Civil War and later became the 18th President of the United States, was a junior officer during the Mexican American War. While no peace dove himself, the celebrated American warrior was clear that the war against Mexico was nothing more than a land grab to create more slave states. In his memoirs, Grant remarks that:

 For myself, I was bitterly opposed to [the annexation of Texas], and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory…The occupation, separation, and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union. (Grant)

 And so, in 1848, after a two-year war against its neighbor, The United States took control of Alta California. The balance of power had shifted, but it was not until a year later when gold was discovered at Sutter’s mill[2], that the Americans started showing up in California in large numbers.

 


[1] “Americans” were a fairly culturally and ethnically diverse group that included people of European, East Asian, and African descent under the umbrella of Anglo-American hegemony.

[2] Sutter’s mill is where gold was first discovered by non-Natives in California, kicking off the Gold Rush. The mill is located in present-day Coloma, California.


Alta California:  HOME

First, Bears.

First, Bears.

And Then People.

And Then People.

The Old World Crashes the Party.

1542-1769:  
The Old World Crashes the Party.
La Madrugada de Mexico.

1810-1821:  
La Madrugada de Mexico.

Yankee Takeover

1846-1848: Yankee Takeover.
Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

1848-1850: Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.


La Madrugada de Mexico

1810-1821: La Madrugada de Mexico

Free Poster Program

Coming Soon: A Taxonomy of Toxins

What toxins, poison, and venom have in common is that they can all put a hurting on you. But what makes them different? ‘A Taxonomy […]

Courtesy of The Bancroft Library  University of California, Berkeley

After only 52 years of nominally Spanish control of Alta California, a war for independence broke out in the heart of New Spain and in 1821, when it was over, the Spanish were kicked out and a new nation, The Republic of Mexico, was born. Mexico now controlled remote Alta California, but like Spain, not very convincingly nor for very long. Alta California had always been on the periphery of the Spanish colonies in the Americas and the connection between Alta California and Madrid was never strong. Even before the Mexican War of Independence started in 1810, official supply ships which were to bring food, tools, and farm animals to Alta California were unreliable and few and far between. Things only got worse during the war, with only one official supply ship making it to Alta California between the start of the war in 1810 and the end of it in 1821(Hackel).  Unable to get goods from the official supply ships, Californios turned to illegal trade with Anglo-American, Russian, and British ships that came to the California coast. Jose Dario Arguello, who was acting governor of Alta California between 1814 and 1815, explained the illegal trade succinctly: “Necessity makes licit was is not licit by law.” (Hackel)

The main cultural and economic shifts that came with independence from Spain were the secularization of the missions[1] and rise of civilian political power. Mission ranchos were broken up and distributed almost exclusively to Spanish-descended settlers (although they were supposed to be mainly given to the Indians who had worked them) and the power that the Fathers at the missions used to wield gave way to the increasingly powerful civilian ranchers and military personnel.  Although the Californio culture continued to develop, the still small population of non-Native people and the relative isolation from the government in Mexico City and emerging global markets kept Alta California largely a quiet backwater.

 


[1] The “secularization of the missions” was the process in which Church properties, especially ranchos, were broken up and distributed amongst civilians and soldiers. This ‘secularization’ started after Mexico had taken over control of Alta California from Spain. Although most of the lands were intended to be given to native people who had worked it during the mission period, in fact most of the land went to Spanish-descended soldiers and civilians.


Alta California:  HOME

First, Bears.

First, Bears.

And Then People.

And Then People.

The Old World Crashes the Party.

1542-1769:  
The Old World Crashes the Party.
La Madrugada de Mexico.

1810-1821:  
La Madrugada de Mexico.

Yankee Takeover

1846-1848: Yankee Takeover.
Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

1848-1850: Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

The Old World Crashes the Party

1542-1769: The Old World Crashes the Party

Free Poster Program

Coming Soon: A Taxonomy of Toxins

What toxins, poison, and venom have in common is that they can all put a hurting on you. But what makes them different? ‘A Taxonomy […]

Courtesy of The Bancroft Library  University of California, Berkeley

For millennia before Europeans arrived, California was an inhabited land. Every part of the region had long been discovered, walked, or settled by native people by the time Spaniards first landed on the shores of San Diego Bay in 1542. (Anderson, 13-14)

 The Spanish first set foot in Alta California in 1542 when a maritime expedition led by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in what is now the bay of San Diego. However, it would be over two centuries before the first serious attempts to settle in Alta California began. Represented by Father Junipero Serra, Capt. Gaspar Portola, and other members of the “Sacred Expedition”, the Spanish first settled in what is now California in 1769 (NPS). The members of this first overland expedition were a motley crew, including white peninsulares, mestizos from what is now Northern Mexico, and mullatos with some African heritage. Although they were the first European subjects to set up permanent settlement in what would be one of the last colonial frontiers of the Americas, they were not the only Europeans around. Russian fur trappers, English and American traders[1], and French explorers all visited the waters and ports of Alta California with various interests in mind. At the time there were hundreds of thousands of indigenous folks living here with thriving cultures, but the religious and economic beliefs of the Spanish led them to believe that Alta California was a wilderness where only godless savages lived. The Spanish established missions to “save souls” and administer the territory. They also set up big farms, or ranchos, to produce food and other goods for the colony while controlling Native labor and teaching the Indians farming techniques.

The arrival of the Spanish in Alta California marked the beginning of a period of crisis for the indigenous population that has continued to today. Hundreds of thousands of Native Californians died within the first hundred years of Spanish settlement in Alta California, largely through murder, disease, and overwork. The indigenous population of around 300,000 in 1769 dropped to only 30,000 by 1860 (Anderson et al., 18). Those Indians that did survive saw their cultures shattered under the weight of the death and dislocation brought by the Spanish conquest; the emotional, political, and social tolls were devastating. Indigenous folks were often treated harshly and were not given the rights to life, property, or self-determination enjoyed by “gente de razon”, or ‘people of reason’ as the Spanish referred to themselves.

Although they were successful in devestating Native Californian ways of life and setting up a string of missions, presidios, and pueblos, the Spanish never controlled Alta California as completely as they would have liked. They were constantly competing with other European colonial powers that lurked nearby, struggling with Native resistance in many forms including a handful of armed revolts at the missions and stiff resistance to Spanish forays into the interior of the territory, and fighting amongst themselves over land and Native labor.

 


[1] At this time the United States of America was only a collection of a few former colonies on the East Coast just having declared independence from Great Britain. 


Alta California:  HOME

First, Bears.

First, Bears.

And Then People.

And Then People.

The Old World Crashes the Party.

1542-1769:  
The Old World Crashes the Party.
La Madrugada de Mexico.

1810-1821:  
La Madrugada de Mexico.

Yankee Takeover

1846-1848: Yankee Takeover.
Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.

1848-1850: Gold, Shysters, and Statehood.