Between 1846 and 1873, California's Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. In An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 (Yale University Press, 2016) historian Benjamin Madley uncovers the full extent of this slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, the taxpayer dollars that supported the violence, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, and why the killings ended. This deeply researched book is a comprehensive and chilling history of an American genocide.
Madley describes pre-contact California and precursors to the genocide before explaining how the Gold Rush stirred vigilante violence against California Indians. He narrates the rise of a state-sanctioned killing machine and the broad societal, judicial, and political support for genocide. Many participated: vigilantes, volunteer state militiamen, U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. congressmen, California governors, and others. The state and federal governments spent at least $1,700,000 on campaigns against California Indians. Besides evaluating government officials culpability, Madley considers why the slaughter constituted genocide and how other possible genocides within and beyond the Americas might be investigated using the methods presented in this groundbreaking book."
To learn more about his newest book read the New York Times Review of An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. To explore more of historian Benjamin Madley's writing, read his Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times.
This event is a part of a series dedicated to the history and contemporary lives of Native Californians, and is presented in conjunction with the exhibitions Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew and Sensationalist Portrayals of the Modoc War, 1872-1873. Learn more about this effort at www.californiahistoricalsociety.org. This event is presented by the California Historical Society in partnership with La Plaza de Cultura y Artes and News from Native California.
About the Author:
Benjamin Madley is assistant professor of history, University of California, Los Angeles. He focuses on Native America, the United States, and genocide in world history. He holds a B.A., M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University and a M.St. from Oxford University.
Book signing to follow the presentation and Q&A.