San Francisco, California – During the 19th-century Gold Rush era, state-sanctioned groups of settlers massacred thousands of Indigenous people in northern California, in what both historians and Indigenous descendants of the victims have labelled a genocide.
Last month, following years of pressure from Indigenous groups and media reporting about the historical injustice, a California law school founded by Serranus Hastings, who initiated hundreds of the killings, agreed to change its name. Now, Indigenous people in California are calling for broader accountability from the state and federal governments.
“These were not battles, they were massacres. We didn’t have weapons to fight back,” Deb Hutt, a descendant of an Indigenous group that was hunted down in California, told Al Jazeera. “Who is accountable? The whole state of California? The federal government who actually reimbursed the state of California for their payments to these murderers?”
During the Gold Rush era in the 1840s, several hundred thousand settlers trekked to California, bringing herds of cattle and horses into lush valleys where Indigenous people had lived for thousands of years, according to historian Brendan Lindsay, author of Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873.
The animals grazed and ranchers cut grass for hay, reducing the food available for elk and deer, which starved or were hunted by ranchers, Lindsay told Al Jazeera.