Do you have a sense of the relationship between the miners and owners in Coloma and the native peoples of the area?

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In later years, both Marshall and Sutter had occasions to reflect on what the gold rush did to them and what their fates would've been otherwise. Their treatment of the native peoples I don't believe was among that. The native populations of California were subjected to various levels of cruelty and dismissal. Certainly they were treated with a different kind of care by the Spanish missions in the early 19th century, late 18th century until 1833 when the mission system was broken up. It caused trauma and dislocation among many of the west coast Indian populations. Who were they to believe in? Who were they to trust? And along comes the gold rush, something they didn't understand. It's important to remember that gold was not first found in 1848. The native peoples, the Mexicans knew that there was gold here and there around the state. It had been found since the 16th century by the Spanish, so gold was nothing new to them. What was new was the rush. All these strangers, all these immigrants, these foreign peoples pouring into the land. What should they do? Should they fight them? Should they work for them? Should they work with them? Should they somehow start mining their own land for gold? So it became a very tangled time for native populations along with everyone else. Sadly, the dislocation continued, certainly spurred by the mining camps, the devastation of the land, the loss of their hunting territory and their farms, so that is one of the sad consequences of the gold rush, what became of the native populations of California.


Interview with David Shayt, National Museum of American History, May 31, 2006.