Exclusionist State Governor

Peter Hardeman Burnett: California’s First Governor

Peter H. Burnett 1807 – 1985 Store owner, lawyer, farmer, road builder and Provisional Supreme Court Judge. Signer of Oregon’s first exclusion laws. California Gold rush miner, land sale broker, and first Governor of the new state of California (1849-1851). A supporter of Chinese Exclusion Act and extermination of local California Indian tribes.

Before securing his position as California’s first Governor (1849 – 1851), Burnett moved his family from Missouri to Oregon on a wagon train.

“As a legislator in Oregon, Burnett proposed that all free blacks be forced to leave the state. Any who failed to leave were to be arrested and flogged every six months until they did leave.” – from The Governors’ Library

Excerpts from Governor Burnett’s State of the State Address

December 21, 1849

The New State

Twenty months ago California was inhabited by a sparse population – a pastoral people – deriving their main sustenance from their flocks and herds, and a scanty cultivation of the soil; their trade and business limited, and their principal exports consisting of hides and tallow.

Within that short period has been made the discovery of the rich, extensive, and exhaustless gold mines of California; and how great have already been its effects! The trade and business of the country have been revolutionized and reversed – the population increased beyond all expectation – commerce extended – our ports filled with shipping from every nation and clime – our commercial cities have sprung up as if by enchantment – our beautiful bays and placid streams now navigated by the power of the energetic, intrepid, and sensible people of California have formed a Constitution for our new State – the Pacific Star.

Payment of Taxes

There are some individuals in California who intend to remain here only while they extract her gold, and enjoy the protection of her laws, and who would willingly return without paying anything. This is particularly the case with respect to the great mass of foreigners in the country. – Burnett State of the State Address 1849

Free Blacks Should be Excluded

Our Constitution has wisely prohibited Slavery with the State; so that the people of California are once and forever free from this great social and political evil.

Governor Burnet was instrumental in drawing the first county boundaries in the state.

For some years past, I have given this subject my most candid and serious attention, and I most cheerfully lay before you the result of my own reflections. There is, in my opinion, but one of two consistent courses to take in reference to this class of population, – either to admit them to the full and fee enjoyment of all the privileges guaranteed by the Constitution to others, or exclude them from the State.

If we permit them to settle in our State, under existing circumstances, we consign them, by our own institutions, and the usages of own society, to a subordinate and degraded position, which is in itself but a species of slavery. They would be placed in a situation where they would have no efficient motives for moral or intellectual improvement, but must remain in our midst, sensible of their degradation, unhappy themselves, enemies to the institutions and the society whose usages, have placed them there, and for ever fit teachers in all the schools of ignorance, vice, and idleness.

It could be no favor, and no kindness, to permit that class of population to settle in the State under such humiliating conditions, although they might think otherwise; while it would be a most serious injury to us.

We have certainly the right to prevent any class of population from settling in our State, that we deem injurious to our society. – Burnett State of the State Address 1849

Had they been born here, and had acquired rights in consequence, I should not recommend any measures to expel them. They are not now here, – except a few in comparison with the numbers that would be here, – and the object is to keep them out. I, therefore, call your most serious attention to this subject, believing it to be one of the first importance.

California’s Destiny

We have a new community to organize, a new State to build up. We have also to create and sustain a reputation, in the face of the misconceptions of our character that are entertained elsewhere. But we have the most ample and the most excellent materials, out of which to construct a great community and a great State. The emigration to this country from the States East of the Rocky Mountains consists of their most energetic, enterprising, and intelligent population, while the timid and idle, who had neither the energy nor the means to get here, were left to remain at home.

Either a brilliant destiny awaits California, or one of the most sordid and degraded. She will be marked by strong and decided characteristics. – Burnett State of the State Address 1849

Resources:

The California Militia and “Expeditions Against the Indians”, 1850 – 1859

Google e-book – Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer, by Peter H. Burnett

History Channel – California’s Little-Known Genocide

Subsidized Indian Massacres, Murder & Legal Disenfranchisement of the Native Californians  by Chuck SmithAnthropology Instructor, for the Cabrillo College’s Anthropology 6 class “Native Peoples of California.”

The Secret Treaties with California’s Indians (PDF) – Larisa K. Miller

Wikipedia – Peter Hardeman Burnett

 

Name History: Oustomah, Deer Creek Dry Diggings & Nevada City

Isaac J. Wistar – 1827 – 1905 Lawyer, miner, farmer, animal trapper, mountaineer, Indian fighter, soldier, and author. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Before the Gold Rush:
The Nisenan people called the Nevada City area Oustomah. At one time, it was home to approximately 2,000 Indians. It was part of a network of villages along Deer Creek.

August 1849:
According to, California Place Name, Deer Creek was named by Isaac Wistar and Mr. Hunt after leaving a freshly-killed deer. Hostile Indians scared them away.

“Next day we reached camp before dark, and described to eager listeners our creek – then and there christened Deer Creek – with the promising appearance of its vicinity.”
– Isaac Wistar

Hunt returned later, striking a rich gold deposit that he named Deer Creek Dry Diggings.

October 1849:
“Dr. A. B. Caldwell built a log store on Nevada Street, back of Main Street ravine … the place was known as ‘Caldwell’s Upper Store.’”

March 1850:

A. A. Sargent 1827-1887 Journalist, lawyer, politician, and diplomat. A proponent of Chinese Exclusion Act and introduced wording that became the 19th Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote.

“At noon the judges of election adjourned to dinner at Womack & Kenzie’s cloth hotel at the present corner of Commercial and Main Streets, and champagne being freely circulated, it was proposed that the names by which these diggings had hertofore been known, viz: ‘Caldwell’s Upper Store,’ and ‘Deer Creek Dry Diggings,’ be dropped, and a new and more euphoneous name adopted. It was finally agreed that each person present should write on a slip of paper the name he would suggest, and the collected names be referred to a committee of the whole for selection of the best. A great many names were written, and among others ‘Nevada,’ by O.P. Blackman, which was immediately, on being read, adopted by the meeting. Thus Nevada was named.” – 1856 Nevada, Grass Valley and Rough and Ready Citizens Directory (pages 20-21), A. A. Sargent

Nevada is Spanish for Snow Covered

 

April 1856:
The town was incorporated as the City of Nevada.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy, History of Us Book Review, Contemporary Nisenan Culture, Historic Trauma & Healing the Past.

Resources:

Books:
California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names, Erwin G. Gudde (pg 104-105)
Nevada, Grass Valley and Rough and Ready Citizens Directory 1856, A. A. Sargent
Of Mines & Memories; A Story of an Odgers Family, Jean Lee DeLaMare
Trust in the Land: New Directions in Tribal Conservation (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies), Beth Rose Middleton Manning

Online Articles & Links:

“Part of our gold mining legacy is the richness, imagination and humor found in place names. They can tell us a lot about a place and/or its namers.  Compare these robust, descriptive and often sensitive names to what real estate developers offer.  “Alta Sierra” is not in the high mountains and “Lake Wildwood” is neither wild or especially wooded and the “lake” is a dammed reservoir.  “Cascade Shores” sounds like a beach town.  Unlike the early namers who arrived at the place then named it, the investor-namers view the landscape abstractly from a conference table while seeking safe and soulless names.”
– Guilty Pleasures: Yuba Place Names, Hank Meals – Yuba Tales and Trails Blog

My Gold Rush Tales – John Rose Putnam – Mining Starts Around Nevada City
Nevada County Gold – Nevada City was one of the Original Gold Discovery Sites

“At first the surface placers were rich and the camps along Deer Creek grew rapidly. … A population census in the spring of 1850 showed 1,067 inhabitants. By fall there were 6,000.”
– Article by Don Baumgart

Pioneer Mining.com
Seeks Ghosts
The Union – In the Beginning
The Union – Nevada City Celebrates 162nd Birthday
Virtual Cities – Nevada City
Wikipedia – A. A. Sargent
Wikipedia – Isaac Jones Wistar
Wikipedia – Nevada City, CA

Videos:
Shelly Covert of the Nevada City Rancheria [6:06] talks about the Yuba River before the white man’s arrival and sings a Nisenan song of spring.

Nisenan Book Review, Culture, Historic Trauma & Healing

Book Review

History of Us, Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria by Richard B. Johnson

First published August 10, 2018

In his recently published book, Johnson describes the indigenous lifestyle (before white men came to California) in a way that makes the heart long to experience the close family ties and feel the intimate connection with the land.

He includes information about the religious and spiritual shamans, both males and females, highly valued for their special herbal knowledge. Native plant enthusiasts will appreciate the flora resources chapter.

Their homes, called “hu,” were round and semi-subterranean. The structures maintained even temperatures and were designed to allow for smoke release from the fireplace. Floors were covered with fine grasses and deer rugs. Hammocks were used for sleeping. The entrance was small, a crawl space. This was for heat conservation and protection from intruders.

With all the fires burning in California in recent years, I can’t help but think about how contemporary home replacement designs should follow these principles.

History of Us includes photos of tools that were crafted for hunting, fishing, and food storage as well as ceremonial regalia.

Nisenan territorial map (pink lines) with present-day California Counties. Black shape indicates an approximation of land included in a treaty that was never ratified.

The Nisenan territory was vast. It included the Histum Yani (middle mountains of the Valley) or Esto Yamani that we call the Sutter Buttes all the way up to Soda Springs. Tribelete chiefs and headmen governed villages located up and down Deer Creek where natural resources were managed. Villages had communication and trading systems. At convention-style gatherings, art and culture were exchanged and inter-tribal treaties were made. This was where young people often found spouses.

Although every aspect of Nisenan life, past and present, is captivating, my favorite section of Johnson’s book is belief and tradition stories. Coyote trickery, the creation story, and the Huitals, one-legged people who live in caves, had my imagination working overtime.

Deer Creek Falls

As one would expect, reading about the brutality that the Nisenan People experienced during the Gold Rush is upsetting. It should be. Johnson’s detailed research and chronology of horrific news articles is commendable.

The latter part of the book details termination of the Rancheria’s tribal designation in 1964, citing legal documents, communication threads, and court cases. It lays out evidence the tribe is using to re-establish its federal recognition. This technical section was not as easy to follow as the first 75% of the book.

I can imagine the highs and lows that the author must have experienced while working on this remarkable labor of love.

 History of Us is a valuable gift for future Nisenan generations and a powerful tool.

I hope the book provides, the right information to the right people who can assist the tribe in reaching their goals.

Contemporary Nisenan Culture – [Excerpts from Sierra Streams Institute video]

Click on the image to watch the Sierra Streams Institute video on YouTube.

Quiet Meant Safe

“In past, you didn’t talk about being Indian. If you did, you could get beat up – badly. This is why we’ve been quiet.”

Maidu is a Language, Not a People

“When we discovered that Deer Creek was going to be dedicated to somebody else, not the local Indians, we needed to start communicating. In the late 1800’s they wanted to identify Indian races in California. They came up with names based on linguistic groupings. Concaw and Nisenan Indians were called Maidu. Maidu is a name of a language, not a name of a people. It’s like the word ‘Latin.’  Do you know a people or a country called Latin? We want people to know that we are the Nisenan Nation and we’re still here.”

Today’s Nisenan Nation

“It’s safe, now to say you are an Indian. This community has treated the Native Americans very well. Even during the Gold Rush times, there were people trying to protect the Indians. The Craig family gave us the land where our Rancheria was to live on for eternity – not to be disturbed or moved again. Women of the Golden West provided housing. If it wasn’t for these people, it’s possible that none of us would be here. Even though there were tragedies and atrocities,  there were still some good people who felt that if we were left alone, we would be peaceful, happy, and content. We try.” – says Johnson.

Understanding Historic Trauma

The videos below are the best sources (at the time of research) that most clearly describe and explain historic trauma.

University of Minnesota – What is historic Trauma?

Native American Residential Boarding School Experience

Healing the Past

Syracuse University – Intergenerational Trauma in Native Americans – “Healing The Past” – Dr. Jessic Corey
(Author is reading a research paper, fast. The information and photography are very good. Hit pause and rewind, to absorb it all.)

 

If you liked this post, you may also like Name History: Oustomah, Deer Creek Dry Diggings & Nevada City.

Resources:

California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project (CHIRP)

California Native People book resources compiled by Chuck Smith, Anthropology Instructor at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA

California State Parks – Sutter Buttes Spirit Mountain

Firehouse Museum, Nevada City – Nisenan People & Chinese history

Grinding rock specimen at Lake Oroville Visitors Center, a California State Park.

History Channel – California’s Little-Known Genocide

Nevada City Rancheria website

Nevada City TV – Sentenial episode – Interview with Shelly Covert that includes discussion of Centennial dam

News From Native California – a quarterly magazine devoted to the vibrant cultures, art languages, history, social justice movements, and stories of California’s diverse Indian peoples.

Nisenan partnerships & accomplishments

Nisenan Tribal Members Collect Scientific Data to Restore Land (2017)

The Secret Treaties with California’s Indians (PDF) – Larisa K. Miller

VICE.com [featuring beautiful photographs] – The California Tribe the Government Tried to Erase in the 60s – The Nisenan tribe of the California Central Valley are fighting to regain recognition from the federal government.

 

Steven Langley II, Voice Actor for Alfred T. Jackson, Gold Miner

rock-creek-deer-creekSteven Langley II of Grass Valley performs the voice of Alfred Jackson in the Deer Creek documentary. Jackson is the character-narrator of the book, The Diary of a Forty-Niner,

“I believe that if it were not for the potatoes, that are fairly plenty, and the fact that the woods are full of game, we would all die of scurvy,” says Alfred.

img_7543-lr-web
Steven Langley II

I met Steven in 2011, when he came to my studio for portraits. He was impressive then, with his dance performances (he played the lead role as nutcrackerPrince in the Nutcracker for several years), but what I remembered most about Steven was his incredible voice.

When I decided to include Deer Creek references from the diary in the project, I knew, immediately that Steven was right  for the job.

Between Alfred’s words and Steven’s voice, the viewer will gain a rich and evocative sense of day-to-day life for a young, caucasian, miner in the 1850’s.

Stay tuned for excerpts of Steven’s work in later posts.

cover-pageFrom The Diary of a Forty-Niner, published in 1906:

“Inside the front cover bore the name of Alfred T. Jackson, Norfolk, Litchfield County, Conn., October 10, 1849. The entries range over a period of two years and the people referred to were persons who actually existed, not only in Nevada County, California, at the time covered by the diary, but also in his New England birthplace.”

“The editor can add that the many incidents and happenings so simply noted, tragic and otherwise, have been verified, both by local tradition and the testimony of old-timers still living, and that the diary gives a veracious, faithful and comprehensive picture of the pioneer miner’s life in the early “Fifties.”

 

If you liked this post, check out Miners Provisions – 1850 Food Prices featuring Steven’s voice work.