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Digger: The Tragic Fate of the California Indians from the Missions to the Goldrush

Overview

From the award-winning author of Children of the Dustbowl comes a sobering look at two of the most frequently romanticized events in American history. For the native peoples of California, the period from 1769, when the first Spanish Mission was founded, to the 1850s, when the Gold Rush was at its height, was one of terrible violence and destruction. First, Spanish priests and soldiers sought to convert the Indians to Christianity and a "civilized" way of life. Yet for the Indians the story of the missions was ...
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Overview

From the award-winning author of Children of the Dustbowl comes a sobering look at two of the most frequently romanticized events in American history. For the native peoples of California, the period from 1769, when the first Spanish Mission was founded, to the 1850s, when the Gold Rush was at its height, was one of terrible violence and destruction. First, Spanish priests and soldiers sought to convert the Indians to Christianity and a "civilized" way of life. Yet for the Indians the story of the missions was one of hunger, disease, rebellion, and death. Then, during the Gold Rush, Indians were frequently kidnapped, murdered, and sold into slavery by white settlers. By the end of the nineteenth century, the surviving California Indians had been forced onto reservations and their way of life had been largely destroyed. With maps, a timeline, and glossaries on California's Indian tribes and mission history, Jerry Stanley tells the story of modern California from the poignant perspective of the Native American.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The title sums up this book, which is divided into three sections. The California natives were first exploited by Spanish priests and soldiers for whom they were often no more than slave labor. When gold was discovered, the Indians suffered even more and by the end of the 19th century, those who survived were relocated to reservations. Not a pretty picture.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up--This attempt to tell the story of California's Native people falls short of its goal. The text is divided into three parts: Indian life before white contact, the Mission period of Spanish colonization, and the Gold Rush when hordes of American adventurers overran the fledgling state. This book tells children what most school texts gloss over, that the Missions were essentially slave-labor camps and that the new state government tried to exterminate Native Californians by encouraging massacres of whole tribes. Quotes from contemporary writers express the violence and racism of the times, while the voices of those whites who objected give depth to this story of exploitation and genocide. Unfortunately, the section on traditional Indian life suffers from factual inaccuracies and condescending descriptions of what is a rich, varied, and highly structured Native culture. Tribes are misplaced geographically, generalizations abound, and Indian life is mischaracterized this way: "Mostly they ate, slept, gambled, played, and made love." Thoughts and feelings are attributed without basis in historical fact. The origin of the term "digger Indian" is explained, but not the fact that this is a highly offensive racial epithet. Even the cover is a stereotype, a scowling "Indian" face in red and black. These shortcomings may be explained by the bibliography and acknowledgments; the author failed to consult the people whose history he tried to write. Clifford Trafzer's California's Indians and the Gold Rush (Sierra Oaks, 1990) is far more limited in scope, but integrates cultural perspectives and shows Indians not as romanticized victims, but as people responding to profound social change.--Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517709511
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/5/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 13 years
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

* Jerry Stanley was born in Highland Park, Michigan in 1941.  When he was seventeen years old, he joined the air force and was stationed in California, where he has lived ever since.

* Once out of the air force, Jerry went to college, during which time he supported himself as a rock-'n'-roll drummer on the weekends.  He received both his master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Arizona.  

* Jerry is now is a professor of history at California State University in Bakersfield, where he teaches courses on the American West, the American Indian, and California history.  In addition to his children's books, Jerry is the author of numerous articles for both scholarly journals and popular magazines.

* Among Jerry's hobbies are bowling, racquetball, fishing, drumming, and writing humor.  He and his wife, Dorothy, have four children and live in Bakersfield, CA.  

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