Thursday, December 27, 2007

We can’t judge what happened then by who we are now.

I was reading Kim's Blog, “The Redheaded Blackbelt” the other day, and she was talking about her ancestors and their part in an Indian massacre. She was deeply ashamed of her ancestors, and their part in what “The Eel River Rangers” did to the Indian people that lived here at the time. I explained to her that, although what they did to the Indians was horrid, that it was possible that her ancestors were doing what they had to do to survive. We can’t judge what happened back then by our standards today. Few people realize the context of our ancestor’s survival, nor do most people have the background in history to know what forced them to do the things that they did.

There is no way to justify what our ancestors did, and no way to make make all of the Indian massacres okay. None of history has been fair, right, or just. But, we are all living evidence that our ancestors survived. In order to put some perspective on who we are, and where we came from, we need to know a little bit about history, and not so much about right and wrong.

Who were our ancestors? How far back in history should we go to make a valid judgment of what they were? Why did they behaved the way they did?

The Crusades. 1006--
(In Italics from Wicapedia)

The Muslim presence in the Holy Land began with the initial Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century.

Western attitudes towards the East came in the year 1009, when the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre destroyed.

Christian Pilgrimages were allowed to the Holy Lands, but for a time pilgrims were captured and some of the clergy were killed.

Christians saw, with some validity, that the pursuit of their religion was being jeopardized by the Muslims. Consequently Pope Alexander II gave his blessings for the Christian soldiers to protect and defend the holy land and return it to Christian rule. Thus began the first Crusade. Christians felt that they were fighting for a holy cause, and to win meant everything to them, and there was nothing that they wouldn’t do to win their battle. There were no “rules of engagement”. There were no “Geneva Convention rules”. You either won the battle, or you died a miserable death at the hands of the Muslims. And, to be fair to the Muslims, they felt that they rightfully owned the Holy land, and the Christians had no right whatsoever to be there. So both sides fought with self-righteous-indignation, and both sides felt that “God was on their side", and winning at ALL costs meant everything.

There were nine major Crusades, and several other minor Crusades, with much the same stories of each side blaming the other for the horror and the destruction that ensued. Both sides, surely thought that nothing was too horrible to thrust upon such an ungodly enemy.

The Spanish Inquisition. 1478--
(In italics from

The Inquisitions were run by both civil and church authorities, which were used as a way for the Spanish rulers to unify the country into a strong nation. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, along with a reluctant approval of Pope Sixtus IV. Entirely controlled by the Spanish kings, the pope barely had a grip on the Inquisition, the only thing that he had control of, was naming who the inquisitor general was. The entire purpose of the Inquisition was to unify and organize the country by punishing, or trying to convert any “non-believers” like the Jewish, Muslims, Pagans, Moors, and any others. Any heresy was intolerable for the Catholics.

It is documented, that anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people, male and female were executed during the 350 years of life that the Spanish Inquisition lived. They often used torture to try and persuade people to give in, and confess to their apparent sins. The amount of women that were killed in these trials seems insanely high, especially when compared to the amount of females and males that were put on trial and killed in Spain. earlier stages of the Spanish Inquisition, people that were accused of heresy would have inquisitors try and force them into the catholic religion. After all, this was the reason that the Spanish Inquisition began! The whole point of the Inquisitions was supposed to be organizing and strengthening the country by practicing only one religion, Catholicism. The reason being is that men were mainly the persons in positions of power throughout Spain. The only case in the Inquisition where more women were accused and executed then men, was with Pagans.

It was their way of thinking, that the need to unify people into one Religion was a Holy Cause, and anything that they did to another human being was justified. After all, it was for the betterment of their Kingdom and mankind. Many people that didn't fit the background, of being purely Catholic, were tortured into confessing their transgressions upon the church. Many people were burned alive for being heretics. Imagine being burned alive!

Medieval to 1870 Europe.
(Italics from Wicapedia)

Until 1814, the full punishment for the crime of treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in that the condemned prisoner would be:
Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. (This is one possible meaning of drawn.)
Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead. (hanged).
Disembowelled and emasculated and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned's eyes (This is another meaning of drawn. It is often used in cookbooks to denote the disembowelment of chicken or rabbit carcasses before cooking).[2]
Beheaded and the body divided into four parts (quartered).
Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e. the four quarters of the body and the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, town, or, in famous cases, country, to deter would-be traitors who had not seen the execution. After 1814 the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would be performed after death. Gibbeting was abolished in England in 1843. Drawing and quartering was abolished in 1870.

Treason was not a crime against their country, as we think or it today, but a crime against the King, his property, or his rule. Anyone that dared to even utter a treasonous statement was dealt with in a very brutal fashion, and it was well understood that a person was to obey they Kings Rule, and the rules of his lords. There was no government of “We The People” back then. You did as the King willed, or you died. Your chances of surviving were better if you were one on the kings men, but that meant that you did the dirty work of the king no matter how repugnant that it might be to you. The King had the ultimate authority over a persons life or death, for what ever reason he might have.

Being gutted alive was not banned until 1814, and the body being mutilated, and quartered, and spread to the four corners of the land was not banned until 1870. This was a time in history that was contemporary to the American wild west.

King Henry the Eighth
King of England 1491-1547.
The story of King Henry the Eighth is too long and convoluted to detail here, and most people are at least vaguely familiar with the fact that he was a tyrant. But a little detail about the power of a King needs to be illustrated. This is what can happen to a Queen that falls into disfavor. (In italics, from Wicapedia)

“Henry the Eighth had Anne Boleyn arrested on charges of using witchcraft to trap him into marrying her, of having adulterous relationships with five other men, of incest with her brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, of injuring the King and of conspiring to kill him, which amounted to treason. The charges were most likely fabricated by Oliver Cromwell. The court trying the case was presided over by Anne's own uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. In May 1536, the Court condemned Anne and her brother to death, either by burning at the stake or by decapitation, whichever the King pleased. The other four men Queen Anne had allegedly been involved with were to be hanged, drawn and quartered; however, their sentences were ultimately commuted to decapitation. Anne and her brother George were also beheaded soon thereafter. At her final Mass, the Queen publicly swore to her innocence in the presence of a priest and various witnesses.”

Why didn’t anyone stop this execution that was perpetrated against a good woman? People surely knew that she didn’t deserve to die. The King had her executed because she bore him no male heirs, and he was in love with Jane Seymore. ( Same name, different woman) It speaks volumes about what power a King has over his subjects.

Did you notice that the king had a henchman in the form of Oliver Cromwell? Did you notice that the judge that condemned her to death was her own uncle? Why didn’t he just say “This is Wrong and I’ll have no part in it”. The reason that he did the things that he did is because it would have meant sure death for him and his family had he not participated in the death of his niece. There are a lot of people with the last name of “Howard” today because of what he did.

Black People were not allowed testify, for or against, white people. (Italics from “The History Of California” Theodore H. Hittell. 1897)

Patrick Cannay offered a petition in the assembly from
free negroes of San Francisco, praying such a change in the
laws as would enable them to give testimony against white men.
But such was the prejudice then existing against negroes that
when Richard P. Hammond offered a resolution that the house
should decline to receive or entertain any petition upon such a
subject from such a source, it was adopted by a vote of forty-
seven ayes to a single no.

Chinese were sent to California under contract and their families were held back in China as security that they would do their jobs well, yet they were highly despised. The only reason that they were here, was for their cheap labor. The Chinese that were doing our dirty work weren’t slaves, but their folks back home were held in slavery to make sure that they performed their duties here. (Italics, History of California)

Criminals, it was true, had not already come in numbers, because the Chinese in California had been sent by contractors who held their families as hostages; but, if the system had so far worked well, it was probably only owing to the limited number sent. But—he went on to say—the allowance of this immigration and the commingling of races would expose our own people "to pestilences as foul as leprosy and the plague, which with the bowlings of insanity would be likely to devastate the land."

This was the world in the mid to late Eighteen-Hundreds. There was no thought of “Civil Rights”. The only people who were thought of as “People” were White People. Some white settlers were surprised to find that Indians could cry. The Indians were thought of, and treated like animals. That didn’t make that kind of thinking right, but this is what you would have been up against, had you gone back in time to instruct these people as to what they were doing wrong.

On the White Settlers side, there was many stories about what the Indians had done to the Homesteads of the North coast. Some true, and most were exaggerations. But many Indians were just as brutal as the whites. And, they were very sneaky and cunning. Most Settlers at the time thought of them as a “Potential Menace”. And with their lack of education, they were easily convinced that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”. And the mere thought of how fragile the settlers frontier existence was, scared the hell out of them, and they most likely decided that the best way to make sure that they didn’t have anything disappear in the middle of the night from a group of Indians was to eliminate them.

As I have also pointed out before, not all settlers thought this way, and they befriended and protected the Indians at their great peril. The people protecting the Indians would be in for sure trouble if it became known.

I think that in conclusion I need to tell you about the people that lived in the North Coast Hills. They were, for the most part, uneducated, poor, honest, hard working people. Their history is in being recently from Europe, where brutality was the norm. They well understood the power of a King. And the power of his henchmen.

What I say repeatedly, is that the mistake we are making, is that we are judging who we are now, and what we would do now, and placing that in a different context that most of us have no concept of at all.

You need to read a little history about what people were like back then. Especially Cattle King White. Then you need to imagine what you would do if his henchmen came to your door, and told you what you were going to do, understanding full well that you were going to do their bidding, or you would die! And your family would die! Remember, you just bought the land that you were on, had no place to go even if you could afford it. And the law, and all of people in authority, were afraid of cattle king White, and would do nothing to protect you…. In that context what would you do? Be honest. For your enlightenment I'm going to include two comments that I received recently:

Ben said...
The point of Jarboe's or Fleming's militias was to simply clear this country of Indians for the whites. Indians were not considered human beings by the majority of settlers in those days. They were not allowed to testify in court nor was killing an Indian considered a crime. The justification for killing an Indian baby was: "Nits make Lice." and this phrase was common not just here, but throughout the west. However, Indian children were useful as servants and so were captured and sold to whites. Woodman Creek near Laytonville is named for the notorious slaver George Woodman.The indentureship law allowed this even after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War. The Army was the only law in Southern Humboldt and they were under orders to kill any Indian male who was not attached to a white settler or on the Reservations at Ft. Bragg or Round Valley. Within ten years, the Indian population was reduced to about a tenth of what it had been when whites arrived. The introduced diseases of smallpox and syphilis reduced the population further. Thousands died.The absence of any Rancheria in Southern Humboldt is evidence of the efficiency of the genocide in our area. Mrs. Bowman was living near Camp Grant when she was attacked. The year was 1869. There is evidence that the Indians involved were a renegade group of Chilula from Redwood Creek. The Bull Creek Indians said that they were also attacked. The vicious attack on Mrs. Bowman and her children was used as an excuse for more forays against local Indians. An entire culture, probably as complex and beautiful as the surviving culture of the Klamath and Trinity area was wiped out. Songs, dances and language were lost. It is important to remember what happened here. That we had slavery, just like the South and that human beings were hunted like animals. My umpty great uncle was tomahawked and killed on the banks of the Ohio River in Indiana. His brother was captured and made a slave of the Kickapoo in Illinois. He escaped and spent quite a bit of his time hunting Indians afterwords. Some of my more recent Indiana relatives were sympathetic with the Ku Klux Klan. As long as we stayed away from politics, we got along fine. They were terrific guys. Just a bit backward.
December 21, 2007 10:35 PM

EkoVox said...
Eric, Have you read Genocide & Vendetta: The Round Valley Wars in Northern California by Lynwood Carranco and Estle Beard. It is very difficult to find as it is a very rare, out of print book. But, if you can find a copy, it is an incredible depiction of Southern Humboldt/Northern Mendocino in the 1850's to about 1880's.Here is a synopsis from a customer of Amazon:The book consists of three major sections:1) The genocide of the aboriginal inhabitants of Humboldt & Mendocino Counties. 2) The rise & fall of the Asbill brothers; two early settlers in the area. 3) The story of the infamous George E. White. Cattle King of Round Valley & the Yolla Bolly country in northwestern California from the 1850's to 1902.The first section is difficult to read. Partly because of the content, & partly because of the format. Appears to be written in the format used for a Master's thesis. Does contain a wealth of information. Some of it repeated from various sources. Gives an overview of the Indian population decline as well as graphic descriptions of some of the murderous incidents. Horrific. Bosnia today has nothing on what a few pitiless men did in the Yolla Bolly country during the 1850's & 1860's. Easier reading covering some of the same material are "The Story of the Stolen Valley," by Rena Lynn, and "The Saga of Round Valley The Last of the West," by John E. Keller.The second section is easier reading because it is based largely on the narrative of Frank Asbil. Son of Pierce Asbill & nephew of Frank Asbil. Follows their story from their arrival in the Yolla Bolly country as hide hunters through the rise & fall of their livestock operations. Colorful & entertaining. My favorite part of the book. If you like this section, look for the "Last of the West" by Frank Asbill & Argle Shawley The third section relates the story of George White's livestock empire. Includes examples of the brutal methods used by his henchmen to control the rich grazing land of the Yolla Bolly country. These included threats, theft, arson, perjury, false accusations, corrupt officers of the law, & murder by various cowardly means: poisoning, shooting in the back from ambush. Over a twenty year period in a population of only a few hundred people, over fifty murders occurred FOR WHICH NO SUSPECTS WERE EVER ARRESTED. Because of the large number of crimes, the authors present selected incidents to illustrate typical methods used by these organized outlaws to keep out homesteaders for nearly fifty years. This section reaches it's climax in the murderous vendetta against the two men that ultimately stood up to George White's outlaw buckaroos, and in the accounts of the killers' trials in Weaverville. It has lighter portions too. These cover cattle ranching methods of the day as well as anecdotes illuminating the character of some individuals involved. For fictionalized adventures in the Yolla Bolly country from this era look for the book "Wylackie Jake of Covelo."Contains an epilogue and an extensive bibliography. Compliments to Lynwood Carranco & the late Estle Beard on their thorough telling of this chilling history. Should be made into a movie by someone like Robert Redford
December 27, 2007 11:09 AM

It makes you think doesn’t it? Remember, there were many unreported murders and disappearances, food poisonings, etc. One man, that had paid a good deal of money for his ranch, crossed White over a land use issue, and he was offered enough money to “get out of town” for his ranch, and again, it was well understood that to refuse the offer was sure death. Whites henchmen would kill you for the boots that you were wearing if they caught you out in the open. What the folks did back then had far more to do with survival than morality.

I would love to see any of the moralist that spout about what everyone did wrong back then, go back and live there for just one week. I wonder how many times that they would compromise their integrity for their families survival.

To even judge the people that survived back then is arrogant. Was what they did wrong? Yes! Did they have any choices? Slim, and damn few.

The Indians were caught in the middle of this mess, and "The King" didn’t want them around, because they were taking up valuable grazing space. When the pony soldiers pulled out for the Civil War, the area was left to be “protected” by private contractors, like Jarboe’s Eel River Rangers, who were hired to keep the Indian population under control. Most all of these men had connections to people like Cattle King white, or other wealthy, but ruthless, land owners. The current thinking of the time was “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”. The backlash to the planned massacres is what finally brought some recognition of the problems that the Indians faced to the civilized parts of the world, and the killing was stopped.

Honestly. Tell me where do you think that you would have fit in in this mess. Remember you have no money, no education, no where to go, and you love your wife and kids. Why don’t you put yourself at about the head waters of Keckawaka Creek, just north of Covelo. Cattle Kings men come by to eat dinner every month or so. What are you going to do? Piss them off?

We have the luxury of living in one small bubble in ALL of history where peace and harmony is even thought of as a viable concept. Also, we have the luxury of living in one small part of today’s world where peace and harmony is thought of as “Ideal”. We have in less than One-hundred years emerged as a peaceful people. Any other time in history, everyone did what they needed to do to survive. We are indeed unique in all of history, or in all of this world, with a few notable exceptions.


Greg said...

Carol got me a copy of the new book "Two peoples, once place" for Christmas. Anyone interested in Humboldt County history needs to read this book because it goes into more detail as well as some historic perspective relative to the ethnic "cleansing" that happened here.

To this day, no one has identified the perpetrators of the worst massacres (Eel Valley/South Spit/Indian Island - 1860). From the beginning, the white community has kept it's collective mouth shut tight about the neighbors and relatives who chopped up so many innocent women and children that day.

I wonder if the act of hiding the identities of these murderers all these years may have created part of today's cultural "identity" in Humboldt? It has been a long-standing cover-up of immense proportions.

Some folks certainly have no idea what their forebears may have done. Those who know should understand they are not personally at fault, but human nature can be very, very ugly. There was no ethical or moral purpose to the whites treatments of the natives.

The US Army tried to protect both the whites from indians and indians from the whites, but when violence escalated the soldiers had to (sometimes reluctantly) fight on behalf of an abusive, murderous, mostly white male culture of land speculators, miners and other fortune-hunters.

The history of Humboldt's settlement is not pretty. Some of the racist attitudes of that day seem to exist today. It makes me glad my family did not arrive until after WWII.

kym said...

I just did a huge post that got eaten!

Basically, I wanted to buy the books recommended but Genocide and Vendetta costs $600!!!! And the others are unavailable. I can see some at the library but they aren't for check out so it will be difficult to really read them. (I am planning on getting Ray's book today though.)

Having exposed that I don't know as much about local history as you all, I still think my ancestor compared to many of his contemporaries behaved shamefully. William Scott who actually went on one of the raids says that he didn't believe that most of the livestock problems were due to indians, he thought the raids were terrible and he didn't go anymore. Comparing him with my ancestor, leaves mine a little short on morality.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym. I have a photocopy of a photocopy that I will photocopy for you.

It's an important book for you to read if you have history here.

If you want to be even sicker to your stomach, "Indian fighters" as they were called on the plains, were thought of as the superhero of the day.

Interestingly, mankind has not changed it's nature that much. We have people just as evil today, but our society keeps them in check. Or in jail.

Anonymous said...

We have the luxury of living in one small bubble in ALL of history where peace and harmony is even thought of as a viable concept.

Ernie...well said.

The history of Humboldt's settlement is not pretty. Some of the racist attitudes of that day seem to exist today. It makes me glad my family did not arrive until after WWII.

Greg, Humboldt's history is not alone here. The European march across America came with these very same murderous actions for two hundred years.

But, let me discuss your comment about you being glad your family didn't arrive until after WWII.

Ok, so let's say the year is now 2087. 147 years after WWII. The same amount of time between 1860 and today. And let's say that an environmental change has occurred and has greatly affected the north coast. Now, our watersheds are destroyed, wildlife are decimated, our grasslands uninhabitable, our shoreline has raced back to cover Ferndale and Loleta and up into the coastal valleys. And let's just say that the greatest scientific reason for this climate change was the cutting of the redwood and Douglas fir forests post WWII.

So there in the coastal town of Willits, they're discussing the destruction of the forests a hundred and forty years ago. One fella says, "Everyone who lived and worked in Eureka and Fortuna and McKinleyville during that time were the sons of bitches who destroyed the north coast and made it unihabitable for everyone."

Would your descendants say, "Um, hey, my great-great grandfather lived there then and he didn't destroy the land. He worked an honest living and volunteered for the betterment of his society".
And what if another person said, "Nope, everyone who lived in Humboldt County between 1945 and 2000 was responsible for the destruction and their descendants should be brought forward and made to pay for the crimes through public humiliation and scrutiny"

Those are the same feelings that those of us who have anscestors who came here during the late 1800's feel. Not every family was involved with the deeds of the murderous bastards. But, we most likely traded or built towns or farmed turkeys and potatoes or supplied army posts right along with them.

As far as I have been told, our family wasn't involved directly with the massacres, we arrived in Humboldt and Trinity Counties too late, but with inter-marriages any direct responsiblity could occur.

I just don't like the sweeping generalization that if your family arrived in Humboldt County prior to 1900 that you were responsible for the genocide of the Native American populations.

For what it's worth, my family arrived to try their stake at making a living off of the redwood trees and later mining on the Trinity River. (And yes, as far as more than a few current local historians are concerned, we were responsible for the destruction of that watershed)

My mother gave me one of my father's books. It was written by Wes Hotelling, Forest Service District Ranger on the Lower Trinity prior to WWII.

His family arrived in Somes Bar/Orleans during the gold rush. His grandfather married into the Karuk tribe. Mr. Hotelling's grandmother was full blooded Karuk. He tells the story of those times in his book; "My Life with The Kar-ooks, Miners & Forestry"

Although, he talks about how life drastically changed for the Karuk, from being native to the land to following the ways of the miners and European influence, he never once discusses massacres of the Karuk people. As I am reading it, I wonder why not?

Perhaps there was more marriages, (as in the case of our family) between the Europeans, Indians and Chinese than killings. And perhaps the isolation in the Klamath and Siskiyou Mountains was so great, that sheer survival was more important than land ownership. And really, to this day, the U.S. government owns most of the land of that region.

While the massacres were a disgusting travesty, why must we constantly play the blame game. Let's learn from the past and carry it through to the future.

Racism will not go away. But, at least, we can keep it in check.
Today, I get really disgusted when I hear remarks about the local Hispanic people who have recently moved here. And I tell those who express those thoughts to knock it off. Because, not all of them are from the Mexican Mafia here as dope growers.

Sorry Ernie for the long rant.

Ernie Branscomb said...

“Sorry Ernie for the long rant.”

Not to worry, I’m honored that you would post your thoughts here.

I’ve often wondered why people that have just recently moved here are so glad that their family didn’t have any part in the shameful genocide of the Indian people, and look at us like it is all our fault that our ancestors didn’t stop it. It was about the same as stepping in front of a speeding train. Stopping the train may be the ideal thing to do, but to stand in front of it is only symbolic, and doesn’t even slow it.

Also, why would it be so important to know who these people were that murdered all of the Indian people? Will it bring anyone back to life? Why would we want to shame the descendants of the original murderers? I personally think that the subject should just die. It could be that the families of the men that killed the Indians didn’t even know about it. It could be that they were too ashamed to talk about it and it died with them, with the though in their hearts. A lot of soldiers return from battle and refuse to talk about it. In fact not talking about their war experiences is very common.

I can guarantee that not too long ago in history, that even the most righteous person had a monster in their family, that maybe didn’t kill Indians but maybe took part in gutting and emasculation of a “Traitor” alive. Possibly a member of his own family, as in Anne Boleyn’s Uncle.

The more that you know about how it “really was” in history, the easier it becomes to accept it as being what it was. Unchangeable. Neither at the time of occurrence, nor especially not now.

Greg said...

The book puts it all in good context. People kept their mouths shut from the beginning.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Okay, now I can read Ray Raphaels new book. I didn’t want to crack the pages until I finished with my thoughts on this subject, because I didn’t want to be influenced by other peoples thinking.

Carol said...

There is an excerpt from the book in this month's Humboldt Historian, which I read last night. A compelling read and now that Greg has finished reading the new book, I'll read it.

kym said...

Ernie, I would love to have a photocopy of whatever history you would like me to see! You and Ekovox have recommended the Genocide and Vendetta book so highly, I keep trying to come up with excuses for spending that kind of money. I know I won’t but I want to! I’m going to make time next week to go in and browse at the library especially since Ray Raphel’s book was sold out of the bookstores I went to. Borders says it won’t be in until late January!

Greg, I’m sure you meant the comment about being glad your ancestors came here late as a joke so I’ll only harass you a little by assuring you, as a genealogist, that some of your ancestors were nearly as bad somewhere else;>! I’ve been doing genealogy seriously for almost 20 years and either my husband and I (and the few other people I’ve helped) have been really unlucky or there are bad apples on every tree. I can remember reading somewhere that in being Adam and Eve’s children (human) is enough to raise the most abased human’s head in pride and bow the greatest king’s neck in shame.

Ernie, I have to agree with the implications of Ekovox’s comments—we shouldn’t ignore what happened before. We don’t need to blame people too much. But we should know and make it clear to children and adults what happened and try and keep our awareness such that we don’t repeat similar horrors in the future.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym, Janis sells Ray's new book at Branscomb Center in Garberville, the last I checked we have plenty. Ray keeps the stock up for us and checks often. We sell them at our store because he is a local author, and we encourage local authors and craft people to consider us as an outlet for their products.

I will make sure that you get a copy of Genocide And Vendetta, (Free) don’t buy one unless you are extremely wealthy.

I check your blog two or three times a day, but I don’t always leave messages. My bad. Keep doing what you are doing, your blog Redheaded Blackbelt is unique and interesting.

Ernie Branscomb said...

"I just did a huge post that got eaten!"

Kym, do everything in your word processer, then copy and paste into you blog. You will soon get used to doing it that way, and then you won't lose anything because it will stil be in your word processor.

The only propblem that I've found in doing it that way is blogspot wont let you copy and paste links, because of spam. (It's a long story)

Kym said...

I used to do the copy and paste comments but got lazy because wordpress is so easy and I had figured out blogspot but now that the commenting section has changed, I'm having trouble.

I will be in on Wednesday to buy my copy of Ray's book. I should have known to check Garberville first (although I have to admit, I only thought of your place as a tech place not a book spot--now I'll know) but I try to go to town as little as possible. And haven't had to go to Garberville since Tang Soo DO has been closed for the Holidays. By Wednesday, I'll be a regular again;>

I'm looking forward to seeing as much of Genocide and Vendetta as possible. I feel guilty not buying it but I guess since it is out of print anyway the authors won't be getting a cut of my buying it. I'll look at this as a Library loan. Thank you very much!

Ernie Branscomb said...

I think that the "True Story" of why the book was taken out of print would be another interesting book in itself.
Everyone seems to have a different version of "The Facts".

Eric V. Kirk said...

Let me offer you a little bit of a dissenting opinion here. I think I understand what you're saying, but let me focus on one part of your post for the moment.

Christians saw, with some validity, that the pursuit of their religion was being jeopardized by the Muslims. Consequently Pope Alexander II gave his blessings for the Christian soldiers to protect and defend the holy land and return it to Christian rule. Thus began the first Crusade. Christians felt that they were fighting for a holy cause, and to win meant everything to them, and there was nothing that they wouldn’t do to win their battle. There were no “rules of engagement”. There were no “Geneva Convention rules”. You either won the battle, or you died a miserable death at the hands of the Muslims. And, to be fair to the Muslims, they felt that they rightfully owned the Holy land, and the Christians had no right whatsoever to be there. So both sides fought with self-righteous-indignation, and both sides felt that “God was on their side", and winning at ALL costs meant everything.

There were nine major Crusades, and several other minor Crusades, with much the same stories of each side blaming the other for the horror and the destruction that ensued. Both sides, surely thought that nothing was too horrible to thrust upon such an ungodly enemy.

It seems that there are extremists today, many of them Muslim, and maybe even a few Christians who would have fit in well at the time, but by your argument don't belong here now. Presumably this is because we now have the benefit of the Geneva Convention, rules of engagement, as well as a wide base for the ethos of peace loving over other concerns. We've benefited from leaders like MLK, Gandhi, etc. So the modern "extremists" don't have the same excuses as their predecessors.

But, doesn't the Islamic extremist raised in the absence of these influences have the same excuse? Maybe the 19 who flew into the buildings don't have excuses. They were mostly well-to-do and had educations. Can we judge the working class suicide bomber who has lost his family to the war?

Another point is that the principles upon which the Geneva Convention and fair play ethos are not rooted strictly in modern philosophies. They are based upon religious and philosophical texts which predate even the crusades, including the New Testament.

Even in your argument you point out that both sides of the crusades blamed each other as "ungodly." So apparently there wasn't an absence of such an ethos, but merely the tendency to hold the war opponent to a higher standard than they held themselves.

There were standards of conduct according to rules of chivalry, and they were very often violated. The rules weren't as stringent as we might impose today. You didn't kill the ruler you conquered, but you did put to death all of his lieutenants and even servants to eliminate his base of support. It was practical, and consistent with the military ethics of the time, though there were critics of the practice from outside military circles. It may have been chivalrous, but it was not universally ethical.

So does the existence of contrarian voices negate the excuse? Proponents of your argument with regard to slavery point out that even Lincoln did not support immediate universal emancipation, probably because of the social and economic consequences as evidenced by the chaos in the Carribean nations. He was a moderate liberal in essence. Immediate universal emancipationists like William Lloyd Garrison and Wendel Phillips were "radicals" in league with "extremists" like John Brown and Nat Turner.

But, in a pattern to be replayed into modernity, Europe had already banned slavery (the latest ban was I believe Britain in the 1830s, though the sale of slaves had been banned much earlier). Sure, they benefited indirectly and there's plenty of hypocrisy to make note of. But slavery did not take root because the ethos was long present, anti-slavery views having been expressed on a constant basis dating way back to ancient Greece where the "cosmopolitans" of Ionia argued that it was the moral weakness of the foundation of Greek civilization which would cause it to crumble. The European "thrall" system was abolished by the 14th century when the Church proclaimed that it was immoral for a Christian to enslave a Christian. The voices were there in BC, and they were even more numerous in 1642 when Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize slavery.

In the late 1700s came the organization the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain, and within a couple of years similar groups opened up in the US such as the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Benjamin Franklin was its first president, and Benjamin Rush (who also opposed the death penalty according to the guest on my last radio show) and Thomas Paine were members.

The ideas were out there. They were available to anybody with an education. At what point do those voices become numerous and/or prominent enough to negate the excuse? At what point are they guilty of ignoring the voices and their own consciences?

As far as advocates for the rights of American Indians, there were extensive voices with national debate at a loud pitch by the 1830s. The Supreme Court had already ruled for these rights, though one ruling was bucked by President Andrew Johnson who essentially committed a coup de tat by disregarding the Supreme Court's exercise of its Constitutional power. Native rights were discussed at the famous Seneca Falls convention.

The Humboldt County citizens were not settlers arriving shortly after Lewis and Clark. Survival was not a reasonable issue, and they had the benefit of "geneva convention" type documents and ethical arguments advanced at many different levels. They chose to ignore them. And the law.

In short, be it resolved, residents of the north coast during the latter part of the 1800s cannot claim the excuse of historical context.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eric, Ill get back to you tonight, I did a small reply, and in my haste I permanently lost it. Thanks for the thoughtful educated comment.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I’m back.

Eric’s quote “it seems that there are extremists today, many of them Muslim, and maybe even a few Christians who would have fit in well at the time,”

Yes, if you take today’s society and start scratching us, how many will you have to scratch to find the monster among us that is capable of doing what people like “Cattle king” White did? We are genetically the same, indeed some of us are the direct descendants of those same people.

How many would you have to scratch to find the people that were willing to do Whites biding in order to give themselves a better chance to survive? I find it interesting that the Stockholm Syndrome was just a recent discovery. People in history were so subject to behaving in accordance to the Stockholm syndrome that it was formerly thought of as normal human activity. It was only in recent peaceful society that people have become shocked that anyone would set their normal character aside so easily, just to give themselves a better chance at survival.

The desire to survive is strong and basic. It doesn’t take much of a threat to make you start choosing sides. The recent Reggae conflict could be used as a example, although not as dramatic as the genocide of the Indian people. A few short years ago we were all friends professing peace and love. Today we are all choosing sides, with some of us demanding allegiance to one side or the other. Some of us are taking sides with absolutely nothing to gain or lose, and we are very serious and polarized, why? What changed, genetically we are the same people that just recently loved each other.

Could it be that we act the way we do today because of the laws that we have? Are we now the captive of the very firm laws against genocide, murder, rape and robbery? Do we so fear the swift and direct retribution for breaking the laws that we imagine ourselves as great and decent people, just like the ones that run our lives?

Could it be that the Stockholm Syndrome is nothing more than the instinct to survive, and does that fear of death change the way we might think? Are we good people because we are threatened by the punishment for not being good people?

We are a lot shallower than we like to think we are.

Ernie Branscomb said...

“We've benefited from leaders like MLK, Gandhi, etc. So the modern "extremists" don't have the same excuses as their predecessors.”

But, doesn't the Islamic extremist raised in the absence of these influences have the same excuse? Maybe the 19 who flew into the buildings don't have excuses. They were mostly well-to-do and had educations. Can we judge the working class suicide bomber who has lost his family to the war?”

Those are people that exist outside of that one small bubble in time, or the one small place in the world that I talked about. And then there are always the remarkable exceptions, that do the unexpected. The ones that are sick, evil or vindictive.

Then there are the ones in history that did great things for the cause of peace, and almost universally died for that cause, clear up to and including John Lennon. I wish that I could make my point better, but I am trying as hard as I can.

It is my theory that what happened in the late Eighteen-hundreds gave our ancetors a better chance to survive, that is all. I’m trying not to judge what they did as right or wrong. We judge things today the way we do because we are the captives of a modern, peaceful society. Does anyone get my point? Or is objective thinking just to alien to our captive minds to see what I’m trying to say? One can be just as captivated and controlled by “good” as evil.

Rose said...

I totally get your point, Ernie, and have been recommending your post here to a number of people.

Eric V. Kirk said...

I get the point too Ernie. I just think the time we're talking about is a bit late to make that claim. And unlike your other historical examples, the actions went against the law. The Inquisition, the Crusades, they were the law, and acted in accordance with it. The law may be ahead of its time, or behind it. But it is often a good barometer of where we ought to be generally.

These murders took place after the conquering, not before or even during.

Eric V. Kirk said...

By the way, it's an excellent post, and I'll make note of it on my blog tomorrow.

Ernie Branscomb said...

“And unlike your other historical examples, the actions went against the law.”

Another point that I failed to make and it fits my theory. The people that lived on the north coast were more afraid of people like White than they were of the “Law”. Even the lawmen were afraid of white. The Pony Soldiers left for the Civil War in the eighteen-sixties, and that small lapse of authority gave the local people the chance to do their own bidding, indeed they were paid as contractors to “Keep the Peace”. To them that meant “kill Indians”. I keep using White as an example, but there were other Kings and fiefdoms.

I might not have to tell you that the North Coast is an excellent place to not be too afraid of the law. Sacramento and Washington had no more control over the North Coast than they do the Marijuana industry now. How did that get started? One Judge that said that Marijuana was “Okay” in the early days of cultivation. Now it is so ingrained that it will be here forever, but it is still against the law. And to make my point again: I’m sure that some folks grow Marijuana because that’s’ “what they have to do to survive.” And did you notice that they all feel that it’s “okay”. Are they being “held captive” by their perceived “need to survive?” It’s subtle isn’t it?

There is a very subtle difference between who we are now, and who were then, but we agonize about “How could THEY be so callous?” I wonder what many of us would have done to survive back then. I see myself back then, stuggling to protect my family and my farm, with no real “law”. It makes me shudder to think what I might do, and I’m no longer that quick to judge them.

Anonymous said...

Ernie, your marijuana analogy is dead on.

When the Euro-Americans arrived here, they were doing what they considered, "good". Hell, it was manifest destiny. Of sorts. But, it was also lawless. And the strong survived. Even the Humboldt Times, (today's Times-Standard)condoned it. So possibly, the Times-Standard should be the ones to admit their place in the genocide of local Native Americans.

But, it's not that simple. The current publishers, editors, feature writers had nothing to do with it. And the same with the ancestors of those same white settlers.

Let's mark it as a horrendous part of our local history and go on.

Now, the marijuana industry is also against the law. Oh, come on, is too. But, we sit here each and everyone of us accept it and live with it and very, very few are railing against it. If those houses in Arcata hadn't burned down, would anybody even care.

So here we are the greater Humboldt society condoning the illegal marijuana industry because it benefits so many people. In fact the whole of the county.

So, there they were the greater Humboldt society condoning the slaughter of the Indians because it benefit so many people. In fact, the whole of the county.

Was genocide right? No! No! No!

Is illegally growing marijuana right? well, here we are.

I'm not trying to compare genocide to cultivation. I'm just saying, if the general masses are behind it, it happens. Legally or not.

Eric V. Kirk said...

Well, for all we know history will be frowning on the eradication efforts rather than the growers. It's worked that way for the bootleggers during prohibition, even with such unsavory characters as Capone involved.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Eric, I think the lesson there would be, that how we perceive what we do as right or wrong has nothing do do with the law, but it's about survival. Good point though.

Thanks Eko, I was leaving a message on your blog as you posted here.

What amazes me is how easily we justify things that we need to do to survive. No matter how subtle that need might be. Having the Indians gone was considered to be a good thing back then by a lot of folks , and if you objected to it, there was a good chance that your name would appear on a grave marker instead of the census report.

The newcomers don’t get it. But, I was raised with it. My Grandmother, my Dad, and my uncle, and my Mother, all knew “Foxy Burns”, the only surviving Indian of the Massacre of Bloody Run. When my dad and my uncle were kids they cut the Manzanita on the family ranch for fire wood, my Grandmother used to haul wood to Fox Burns. When she hauled him his last load of wood, he only let her unload half of it. My grandmother told him that he would need the whole load to get to spring. He replied; “No need more wood, when wood gone, Fox gone” and he died before he needed more. My grandmother said that “he knew he was going to die, and he did.” She would always tear up a little when she told the story, she knew that “the last of real history” died with him.

My Great-Grandmother Laura Middleton knew Sally Bell and her sister, the last only surviving members of the Needle Rock Massacre, they were raised in the same area. (Usal). My Grandmother Ruby knew Sally Bell Well. Fred Wolf (The local wolf family) was delivered as a baby by Sally Bell, I used to help Fred round up his sheep. I ate dinner with him, I spent hours bullshitting with him.

My uncle hunted with the Indian kids and they got along and liked each other. He knew all of the Indian legends and he knew all about their Spirit world. He was always going to write a book about it, but he felt that he might be violating a trust, and he didn’t write the book. He was going to write another history book instead, but he died before he had the chance.

I wish that I had some real credibility when I talk about “How it was” but I don’t. I will say I knew people that did have real credibility and I was as close to them as any family can get.

Anonymous said...

Ernie....I know very well what you mean about not having the credibility to talk about "How it was".

We are too many generations forward. My Uncle Jack Risling on the other hand was Yurok/Karuk and even he was a very little kid when the Indian kids were sent to the Indian school in Riverside. And remember, this was in the 1920's. That's three, maybe four generations from the 1860's.

I remember asking an Indian oldtimer how they traveled between Hoopa and Weitchpec when he was a little boy. And he told me with a gleem in his eye....

"Well, you could take a boat back and forth depending on the water level, but it's harder to go upstream than down...or you could use any number of the old Indian trails that the old people used to use to travel back and forth.....or you could do like our family did and hop in the Model-T and take the road to Weitchepec.

He busted me. Take the road...Christ, what was I thinking? Did I think that they rode gallant Appaloosa's as depicted in the movies? He wasn't that old. Sure he was 80 something, but he was born in the early teens. Say 1913.

Modernization had come a long, long way and the Indians assimilated with the white man. Was there still predjudice? Yes.
But, the Indians assimilated over time. I guess or die. What choice did they have?

For what it's worth. My Uncle Jack Risling was the carpentry crew foreman on the building of Morris Graves house in Loleta.

Read Native Patriots by Chag Lowrey. It's about the local WWII Native American Veterans. Some of the most patriotic people who served their country. It really says a lot about that generation of Native Americans.

I sure wish there was a Native American chiming in on these blogs. That might give you another perspective. One from their family view.

Ernie Branscomb said...

With all the worry about political correctness lately, I got concerned about offending anyone, so I asked. I have a friend in Laytonville that I asked what she preferred to be called, an “Indian” or a “Native American.” Her reply was that she had been an Indian all her life and was proud of it, and why would she want to be called anything else?

I have a local Indian friend that I asked the same question, and with a mock stereotypical Indian stone face he said; "Niether, I'm an indigenous person, white-eye". I think he was kidding….

Ben said...

Somehow my brilliant post on Genocide and Vendetta got lost. Oh well, you will all have to wait, the whole topic made me remember something that was happening in the early 70's when I first came here.
First out in Whitethorn, then Briceland and then right across the street from me near Miranda, people started burning each other's houses down. I couldn't say how many were burned but it was quite a few. In most cases, the object was to get rid of those obnoxious hippies. The incident near me happ ened when a local barkeep's daughter started hanging out with some free spirit types who were living in an abandoned structure on the Avenue, owned by the State. The barkeep and a few clients having had a few beers decided to go clean the place out. They pistol whipped one of the guys and burned the place down. This being a country of laws even back in1970, they were sent to prison for a while. One of the perps was a local Indian and well regarded. The whole thing was much discussed in the community and a great deal of sympathy was expressed for the arsonists. This made me a little nervous being a hippie and all. That was my introduction to the social dynamics of Southern Humboldt. What it meant was that when I was hanging out drinking with my newfound logger friends, the conversation could suddenly get a little uncomfortable.
In 1976 or so, I shaved my beard to get a janitors job at the High School. I was amazed to discover that people I didn't even know were suddenly nice to me.

Anonymous said...

Great post Ernie. I certainly get your main, fully illustrated, thrust about historical context. And, I doubt that any of us come from completely peaceful and righteous family trees that go back very far. We are all descended from survivors after all. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

It is important to forgive the descendants of the perpetrators of historical atrocities as a people rather than continue to act based on cycles of prejudice and judgment. It is just as important not to forget. There have been numerous cycles of prejudicial violence, atrocity and even genocide in our lifetimes. Human beings (white, black, red, yellow, etc.) are fully capable of equally violent acts today. And we, in our peaceful bubble of quasi law and order, have failed to act in our time just as others failed to act in the past. There have always been bullies like Mr. White. And we still have them today. I suspect they will continue to emerge in the future.

Hopefully we are still strengthening our ability to stand, cooperatively, against such behaviors: such spasms in the social fabric. It may be helpful to remember in detail, and to understand if possible, how they occur to help recognize what our current historical context makes difficult for us to see.

Thanks for making a real contribution to a much needed, and difficult discussion.

Ernie Branscomb said...

My internet is blinking off and on. I'm going to give up until this storm is over. It may be days.

But thank-you everyone for your comments.

Ernie Branscomb said...

My power and internet are back up and running smooth, so I want to take the opportunity to say that I probably learned more about the history of “How it was” in this posting than anyone.

As I started this post I intended to relate the reasons in history why people did the things that they did, and I soon realized that it was more a study of fear, survival, and psychology rather than history. The murder of the Indian people had no real justification, other than everyone had convinced themselves that they would be safer without Indians.

The fact that we can be hostages of “good” as well as “evil” seemed to become glaringly clear to me. So our good now, and our opinions of the evil past, are swayed by the fact that our laws now force us to be good, and there is sure punishment for not following the rules, so we are hostages of “Good”.

In the past, where they had no enforceable laws, do too corruption and greed, good would have been scorned as non-productive, and with no real purpose, and that they should kill all the people in the way of the “Kings” success, and they did. I’m sure that most of the participants knew that what they were doing was wrong, and that is why some never confessed the murders to anyone, and took it to their graves without so much as even telling their wives about it.

Thank-you again for all the thoughtful comments.