Indian reservation

When Native Americans were forcibly removed from a Mendocino Indian Reservation

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During our team’s research for the “California Coastal Trail” episode which focuses on MacKerricher State Park in Mendocino County, we learned that the land that is now the park was once part of the reservation. Mendocino Indian, a strip of land ten miles long and three and a half miles wide. Native Americans who lived on this reservation, established in 1856, included members of the Pomo, Salan Pomo, Southern Pomo, Yuki, Wappo, and Whilkut tribes.

In an 1857 letter from new Lt. H. B. Gibson to what is now Fort Bragg, published in “the Noyoby Beth Stebbins, Gibson recounted the dire conditions of the Mendocino Indian Reservation. Gibson described the near-starvation of Native Americans, the poor quality of the little food they were given – including flour adulterated with sawdust from lumber, the alleged diversion of supplies and other resources by the reservations administration, and the need for a competent doctor. It was a potential powder keg of discontent that could explode at any moment, if conditions did not improve. .

And yet, according to Dr. David G. Lewis, author or “The War of Extermination and the Gathering of Traditional Food by the Tribes in California, 1856“, “the reservations” offered the only safety for the tribes. They knew that if they left, they risked being murdered by armed Americans bent on their destruction… The killing of Indians was reinforced by laws of which authorized state reimbursement of the cost of killing Indians, proof of such activity being the turning of the scalps of redskins (hence the origin of the word). The policy was reinforced by forceful pro-extermination statements in regional newspapers and by the state’s first US Governor Peter H. Burnett…”

In his January 6, 1851 State Address StateBurnett said:

That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race is extinct.

Enlightened Christian Warfare in the Nineteenth Century.  Massacre of Indian women and children in Idaho by white scouts and their red allies.  Engraving, 1868. |  Getty Images
(Original caption) “Enlightened Christian warfare in the 19th century. Massacre of Indian women and children in Idaho by white scouts and their red allies.” Engraving, 1868. | Getty Images

Around 1862, a factory worker named Duncan MacKerricher (1836-1926) obtained employment as an assistant to Indian Agent EJ Whipple on the Mendocino Indian Reservation. Two years later, in 1864, the Native Americans living there were forcibly removed to the Round Valley reservation, which was then called Nome Cult Farm.

From a letter of 1866 of the California Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Mendocino Indian Reservation was officially “discontinued” on March 31, 1865, “employees discharged, and government property transferred to Round Valley”. The letter further stated: “It is thought desirable that the Indians remain at their present location for the time being; they want to stay until the lands on the reserve have been sold by the government. In this locality they obtain large quantities of fish and clams, and many of them find employment in the nearby sawmills at fair wages, with which they obtain clothing; their presence is not disagreeable to the few settlers adjoining the reservation, and their work is not necessary on the Round valley reservation at the present time; but as soon as the interest of the service requires it, they will be removed.

Although this 1866 letter indicates that at that time some Native Americans were still living on what was once the Mendocino Indian Reservation, it is clear that they too were on borrowed time.

As for the Native Americans who had already been expelled from the old reservation in 1864, their expulsion had been executed to make way for the sale and resettlement of these lands. And although a California Legislature Resolution of 1868 codified this intention “to subject the lands to colonization and preemption”, three years after the official “discontinuation” of the reservation, it seems that the sale and resettlement of the lands in the former Indian reservation of Mendocino had already taken place in the middle years.

According to “American Indian History: Exploring Diverse Roots“, the removal of Native Americans from the defunct Mendocino Indian Reservation was just one of a series of forced marches in which Native Americans were driven off temporary reservation lands and forced to live on another reservation, Nome Cult Farm, Round Valley, the marches began in 1855 and continued until the mid-1860s.

map of the Indian route to the round valley 1863
Nome Cult Trail | Excerpt from “The Indians of Chico Rancheria” by Dorothy Hill
yuki tribe
Yuki men at the Nome Cult Farm, CA 1858 | Public domain

Perhaps the most infamous of these forced marches, known as the Nome Cult Trail or Conkow Trail of Tears, began on August 28, 1863. On this day, the Conkow Maidu were rounded up by armed soldiers and marched started a grueling walk from Chico. to the round valley. Of the 461 Native Americans who started the journey, only 277 remained by the time they reached Round Valley. 150 who were too exhausted, sick or malnourished to continue the journey had been left five days into the journey with just enough food to last a month. Others died of disease, exhaustion, hunger or thirst, while two managed to escape along the way. Dorothy Hill writes in “The Indians of Chico Rancheria”: “The Indian versions of the cruel hardships their ancestors encountered on the Round Valley road are more explicit than the government accounts.

According to Beth Stebbins’ book, “The Noyo”: “The problems that had beset the coastal reservation were carried over to the Round Valley reservation.” A number of first-person accounts of conditions on the Nome Cult reservation describe Native Americans who worked hard on the farm and yet could not afford to obtain clothing, nor were they given a bundle of clothing. In two years. There were no schools for the children, a severe shortage of supplies, and “no significant building constructed for the Indians to live in”, according to Status of Indian Tribes: Report of the Special Joint Committee.

Life at Nome Cult Farm was difficult in other ways as well. Not only did Round Valley’s original inhabitants, the Yuki, now have to confine their lives to a small part of their own ancestral land – Nome Cult Farm – but they also had to live side by side with outsiders from a number of different countries. other indigenous peoples. American tribes. Some tribes were enemies of the Yuki and none had a common language.

mendocino indian reservation
1869 map of the former Mendocino Indian Reservation, in which “MacKerricher’s Enclosure” can be seen (east of 19, on the coast)

Duncan MacKerricher, the former Assistant Indian Agent of the Mendocino Indian Reservation, and his wife Jessie purchased an area of ​​the former Mendocino Indian Reservation known as El Rancho de la Laguna for 1, $25 per acre. There they established a thriving ranch that produced butter, grew potatoes, and was known for its draft horses. “MacKerricher’s Enclosure” can be seen on a 1869 map of the former Indian reservation of Mendocino.

MacKerricher is also said to have employed many Native Americans on his ranch, up to half of the Pomo who lived on this reservation, according to a description of a historical presentation given by MacKerricher’s great-granddaughter, Faith Graham.

The land the MacKerricher heirs gifted or sold to the state of California became what is now the beautiful MacKerricher State Park, which opened its first set of campsites to the public in 1952. Today , MacKerricher State Park attractions also include whale watching from the headland, harbor seal watching at the seal colony, walks on Glass Beach, fishing, hiking, biking and more.

Today, the group of tribes who were first forced to live together on Nome Cult Farm in the 1850s and 1860s are collectively known as the Round Valley Indian Tribeswhich is “a confederation of small tribes: the Yuki, Wailacki, Concow, Little Lake Pomo, Nomlacki and Pit River”.

“Years of intermarriage, a common way of life and a shared land base,” say Round Valley Indian Tribes website, “a unified community has emerged. In 1936, descendants of the Yuki, Wailacki, Concow, Little Lake Pomo, Nomlacki, and Pit River peoples formed a new tribe on the reservation through the adoption of a Constitution and created the Covelo Indian Community, later called the Round Valley Indian. Tribes. Our heritage is a rich combination of different cultures with a common booking experience and history.

Today, the Round Valley Indian Tribes own the Hidden Oaks Casino and Golden Oaks Motel in Mendocino County. And each year, the Round Valley Indian tribes, along with the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians and the Mechoopda Tribe of Maidu Indians, honor and remember those who were forced to walk to the Round Valley Reservation in 1863. The Mendocino National Forest also participates in the Nome Worship Walk, “Labour[ing] together as a partner with the tribes to complete a brochure to document the history of the trail and install interpretive signs along the route through the forest.

In 2013, which was the 150and anniversary of the Nome Cult Walk, Kenneth Wright, who at the time was President of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, pronounced“It is important that our youngest members take part in this annual event.” The theme for the March of the Nome Cult that year was, “Honor Their Memory – A Path Not Forgotten.”

Members of the Round Valley Indian Tribe retrace the 1863 route of the Nome Cult Drive, a forced resettlement of Indians from Chico, California to Covelo, California.  Photo by the US Forest Service.
Members of the Round Valley Indian tribe retrace the 1863 route of the Nome Cult Walk, a forced relocation of Indians from Chico, California to Covelo, California. Photo by the US Forest Service. | United States Department of Agriculture/Flickr/CreativeCommons