An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873

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Yale University Press, May 24, 2016 - History - 480 pages
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The first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under United States rule

Between 1846 and 1873, California’s Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Benjamin Madley is the first historian to uncover the full extent of the 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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dele2451 - LibraryThing

An extensive work of detailed historical scholarship on the Native American/First Nations/Indigenous experience during the settlement of California during the 19th Century. Brutal to digest, but an ... Read full review

AN AMERICAN GENOCIDE: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873

User Review  - Kirkus

It was no accident that California's Indians were slaughtered by the droves in the mid-19th century, writes UCLA historian Madley, but instead the product of design.We know the heyday of genocide ... Read full review

Selected pages


California Indians before 1846
March 1846March 1848
March 1848May 1850
The Killing Campaigns of December 1849May
Militias and Vigilantes April 1850
December 1854March 1861
March 18611871
Selected Massacres with Contested Death Tolls 1846
The United Nations Genocide Convention

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About the author (2016)

Benjamin Madley is associate professor of history, University of California, Los Angeles, where he focuses on Native America, the United States, and genocide in world history. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.