Friday, May 30, 2008

Outrageous Outrage.

Eureka and Humboldt Bay, with Indian Island on the mid-left.

Hmmm… Say my uncle Fred ( I don’t have an uncle Fred) told me a story that he heard from a man that he works with, that heard from a friend of his wife’s that was told a “true accounting” of some great piece of history. Say that accounting of history explained a lot of things that people have always wondered about. Should it be told? Or should it be untold as “Unverifiable”.

Say that a guy jumps out of his best friends wife’s window, and tries to run home in the middle of the night, and gets killed by a mountain lion. ( That didn’t happen either). How much of the story should be told? What would be gained, and what would be lost by the complete telling of the story? I’ll let you think about it. I would reveal that a man was killed by a mountain lion, and let the rest go.

Say I knew all the names of the people who killed the Indians on Indian Island in Eureka, (I don’t) should I tell? If the names of those people were known, how would we treat their descendants. Are we good enough as fellow human being to allow them their individual honor, based on who they are personally? Or would we condemn the whole family as murderers. Many people feel that Larrabee Creek should be renamed, because that family had something to do with the murder of the Indians on Indian Island. Could you meet, and shake hands with, someone with the last name of Larrabee, and not wonder if he was a descendant of the infamous Larrabee?

Heraldo Riviera, who writes the famous “Humboldt Herald” blog is outraged that the massacre happened, and has demanded full disclosure: “While the perpetrators of this crime are safely dead, it is likely that living descendents know their names. May they have the courage to step forward and reveal Eureka’s darkest secret.”
Although Heraldo’s dramatic rendering of the tale of the Indian Island massacre is very poignant, and it outrages today’s society. It inadvertently reveals something about yesteryear that would not be accepted today. The man had a following of people that agreed with him. Yet they must have known that it was wrong, because they kept it a secret. I would imagine that they did not even tell their families their horrible secret, and I think that it died with them, as it should. Why would they want to dump that legacy on their descendants?

Sometimes I think too hard about things, but it is easy for me to see why some history should die in the boots that it walked in.

Just as a side note, I find it ironic that someone who is the most “anonymous” person in all of Humboldt County would be demanding names. It leads me to wonder how he would use them if he had them.

How would we feel about Heraldo Riviera if found out that his name was “Larrabee”? ( I don’t think it is)

A link for Rose: We can't judge what happened then by who we are now. The comments on that post are the best comments that I've ever recived, they were very thoughtful.


heraldo said...

Rest assured I am not a Larrabee, and from what I understand, no Larrabee descendants remain in Humboldt (unless the shameless Indian killer eventually had children and some descendants came back to the area).

You're right that Hank Larrabee had some supporters, which is not surprising -- look how Eureka treated the Chinese in the decades following the Indian Island massacre.

But Larrabee, who is believed to have been involved in the massacre, was eventually run out of Humboldt. Hank was too much of a despicable thug even in those times.

But Larrabee didn't act alone and there are likely descendants from those involved still living in Humboldt.

It would be pointless and wrong to blame living descendants for acts committed by a long-dead ancestor.

But I see no harm in completing the history books with the names of the perpetrators.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Heraldo, thank-you for your comment.

I have deep ancestry in the South Fork of the Eel valley and I have often encountered people that had the opinion that my family must have had something to do with the massacre of the natives that lived here in the early days. So, I know the sting of guilt that it causes one to feel.

In researching my family, I have found that my family, on all sides, helped the Indian people as much as they could. I have always taken great pride in that, but, for my own part, I should no more be proud of that than I should have been ashamed had they been involved in skullduggery and murder.

I have actually agonized over whether or not I know the “real truth”. I knew enough of my relatives to know that there were certain things that “the young folk didn’t need to know” and it died with them. That would be anything to what happen to all the pet pigs that died of “apple poisoning”, that I suspect that we actually ate, to maybe, tales of Indian massacres. The old folks knew how to keep a secret, and it doesn’t surprise me that nobody knew who the miscreants that murdered the Indians on Indian Island were.

As brave as I am about thinking that people did what they thought they had to, to survive. I don’t think that I would like the idea of finding out that my ancestors did something like that.

Also, if you or I had done anything like that, do you think that we would have told our children? I don’t believe it will ever be known who killed the Eureka Indians.

We don’t have to look too far back in history to find a monster in any of our families. I think that it is sometimes better that we just don’t know.

I've belabored this subject before; Here

Anonymous said...

Ernie, if Heraldo's last name was Larrabee, I think it would be the Larrabees from Maine, Massachusettes or some location far away. Those ideals clearly were raised somewhere else and moved here.

heraldo said...

We don’t have to look too far back in history to find a monster in any of our families. I think that it is sometimes better that we just don’t know.

Maybe in some cases.

The descendants of the survivors of the massacre would like to know the names.

Ernie Branscomb said...

My first thought is to be concerned about the needs and feelings of the surviving Indian People. They are living cultural assets, with much valued history and knowledge of the north coast. I find more sense in their way of life than the people that moved here. Having said that, I feel that it needs to be said that modern times have been thrust upon them, and they have reaped some of the benefits of modern society along with their sorrows.

It dramatically makes the point that I often make, that no matter what happens, we can’t change what happened. The average person of today has ten times the knowledge and education that the people of the eighteen-sixties had, and another massacre is not likely to happen.

I would only ask what the Indian people will do if they find that the knowledge they seek will never be known, for all of the reasons that I mentioned above. Can they let it go?

Can they accept that if the white settlers hadn’t made war on them, that maybe one of the other Indian groups might have? Can they accept that they had whole villages wiped out by their own people in history before the whites came? Can they accept that their own people had wars that are poorly understood today.

I guess what I’m trying to say is ALL of our ancestors had ruthless bastards among them. Indians and Whites. And, aren’t we lucky that we live in one small bubble in all of history where we feel that getting along is important?

Anon.R.mous said...

heraldo said...
The descendants of the survivors of the massacre would like to know the names.
May 30, 2008 8:17 PM

No, we don't.

Just because you suffer a bad case of "white man's burden" doesn't mean you speak for us.

Anonymous said...

I like the picture Ernie. In the upper right hand corner there appears to be a pointed mountain, not sure if it is the way the light hits it but can you tell me the name of it?


Ernie Branscomb said...

Well, if it's pointed it hasta' be Shasta.

Rose said...

YOu had another great post on this topic a while back Ernie. Can you include a link to that in your post? At the end as a related post?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Rose, I added the link on the main post so it will open full page.

Carol said...

Well, my ancestors, Jacob Mitchell and Susanna Pope Mitchell were slain by Indians while returning to their home in Dartmouth, MA, after they had taken their children to the garrison. This was during the King Phillips War. However, I harbor no resentment towards the Indians, as the Indians or Native Americans whole way of life changed when the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth. The 3 Mitchell orphans were married all on the same day to Kingman children. What a hardship to loose your parents then be forced to be married to a total stranger.

ben said...

Ernie, Check out Kristin Windbigler and Jim Baker's work on Henry Larrabee on the Blocksburg site. His descendants live in Kansas. Jim Baker has done some excellent work on 'ol Henry. Larrabee was the only man to publicly brag about his participation in the Indian Island Massacre. He used a hatchet to avoid rousing the Eureka folks across the channel with gunfire. It is rarely mentioned that on the same day, hundreds of Indians were killed at the south end of Humboldt Bay and at Rio Dell. The party rode out of Hydesville and , I believe, was under the command of a fellow named Steven Fleming. They were determined to eliminate the "tame Indians" who they believed were aiding the "gun Indians" who were killing stock out on the ranges to the east in an attempt to drive the whites out of that country. Chief Lassic was considered the leader of the "gun Indians".
When the first white settlers came to the wilds of Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino Couties, the only way they had to make the cash they needed for powder and ball was the deer hide trade and the trade in Indian children. Livestock was not yet a viable business. Lucy Young's Story, which you can find on the Blocksbug site, tells of the organized traffic in Indian children from which Lucy escaped. A major station in the slave traffic was the Laytonville area where a fellow named
Woodman was a well known slaver. There is a Woodman Creek north of Laytonville named for him.
All of this is part of the history of our community. History which has been suppressed for obvious reasons. It is important to respect and teach this part of local history. It could teach us to ask ourselves if we are today enslaving people in the World economy for our own benefit. What can we do about that if we find that it is true?

Carol said...

Excellent point made, Ben

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ben

Chief Lassic and his band of "renegades" met their sad end when they were rounded up and imprisoned in Fort Seward. They were made to cut firewood. They later found out that they were going to be hung and their bodies were going to be burned with the wood that they had cut.

Chief Lassic apparently said something about hanging being for dogs, and demanded that he and his braves be shot. As you know they were obliged.

Much of the blame for the Indian massacres was laid on Chief Lassic’s activities. As Ben said, they were called the “Gun Indians” and the settlers knew that the local “Tame Indians” were cooperating with them. The feeling by some of the settlers was “The only good Indian was a dead Indian”. People like Hank Larrabee set out to exterminate the race. He was attempting genocide. Fortunately he failed, and was run out of the country. Not everyone agreed with his brutal practices.

When the pony soldiers left to fight the Civil War, private soldier like Jarboes Eel River Rangers went about slaughtering Indians, and they killed off many of the Indians that were located here from all over Northern California. The good that came out of all of the killing was that it brought world attention to the plight of the Indian and the remaining Indians were saved.

Much of what we know about the plants and animals of the North Coast came from the local Indians. My uncle Ben Branscomb was raised with the Indian kids in Laytonville. Ben knew, and believed in all of the Indian Spirits that the Indian people believed in. When I was a child, he would tell me fascinating stories of the Indians Spirits, and what they meant. I’ve forgotten all but a few of the stories that he used to tell. It is agonizing to me to remember parts of “Great Spirit” stories, and not know one from the other, and what the subtle meanings were. He never wrote about them, because he felt that it would be betraying a trust. I would think that now, even the Indian people wished that he had written everything down.

Kym said...

I love Ben's point about teaching local history and how that relates to today's issues of the US taking advantage of third world economies.

Anonymous said...

The descendants of the survivors of the massacre would like to know the names.

I have never heard that mentioned.

My local Native American relatives never, ever once have brought up a desire to know the names of the soldiers, militiamen or settlers who killed their ancestors. And, because of the small population here in Humboldt & Trinity Counties, more than a few have already married into those very same families. You know, that just isn't a topic that is brought up around the Thanksgiving table.

I have to agree with Anon.R.Mous on this one.

Ernie Branscomb said...

There really aren't a lot of "pure Indian" people left anymore. That would be another good reason to study the past, but avoid the names. It would be an interesting conflict to find your great, great, grandfathers killed each other.

Also, there were a great many innocent white people killed by Indians. The past needs to be “Past”.

I agree with Heraldo that what happened was horrible. I also agree with Anon.R.Mous that we really don't want to know who did it. What would that accomplish?

Carol said...

Even in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War there were relatives fighting against each other dependening on their loyalties.

ben said...

Ernie... I can't agree with you on this one. Historians are like hunters. If there is a mystery it calls them like bees to honey. The members of the Indian Island party were well known in the community according to Bledsoe in Indian Wars of the Northwest. He knew that if he revealed the names in print, retaliation would be swift. Larrabee had a corporals rank in a militia under a guy named Ousley. They would attack Indian settlements and then bill the State for their services. Col. Black, who ran the western Army from the Presidio in SF, put out an order to shoot any Indian man who was not in custody or on a reservation. The purpose of all of this was to eliminate the Native population and encourage white settlement. Despite this purpose, Native culture survived both to the north, in the Klamath basin, and to the south in the Pomo communities. Rancherias and reservations dot those communities but we have none. Though some local Indians survived by associating their families with local ranchers, the culture and the language were wiped out. The exciting and remarkable thing is that we are now experiencing a time when all of this cultural devastation can be reversed and restoration is beginning to take place. Imagine, for example, an "extinct" language being spoken again. The Wailaki language was still spoken in our area in the '50s and even the'60s. Because of its similarity to the still spoken Hupa Language it is possible to imagine restoration through programs already existing in California. Local Wailakis have already attended these seminars. Some of the Ceremonies which were performed here are still done in Round Valley and it was great to see dancers at Beginnings last year do a Ceremony in Briceland which that place probably had not seen for 100 years or more. Once again, the Wailakis will have a float in the Rodeo Parade and have a lot of fun showing their pride. I have to say that just being a witness to all of this has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Okay Ben, I agree on the language and the cultural revival. I think that is great. But, as a local person, I would not want to find out, or have it revealed, that I had an ancestor that participated in a massacre. I don’t think that anyone would like finding out something like that. Ask Kym, she feels very guilty over something that she had no control over.

Having The Wailakis in the parade has given our town credibility. We now represent more of the people that live here. I think that it is great, and I hope that they continue.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why you would not want to know, Ernie.

As an outsider, however, I would really like to know as I have been put down for being that (an outsider with the implication that I am somehow inferior) by so many "real locals" in the 30 years I have lived in Humboldt County. I would like them to know that they really are not any better (or worse) than any of the rest of us, five generations or whatever. (My mother's family was here for the Revolutionary War, by the way, but no one in our family has ever felt the need to flaunt that fact--funny, isn't it?)

I am sure that the number of people involved in the massacre was a small percentage of the good, hardworking people who settled the county, but it is still a part of the history that must be dealt with.

In my life I have learned that keeping secrets hurts not helps.


Kym said...

I do feel ashamed of my ancestors actions and somewhat guilty that partially because of his actions, my family survived at the expense of another people.

But I willing shared the information because I think knowledge is freeing and secrets are stultifying.

Anonymous said...

All of us survive at the expense of other living beings. It seems to be part of life.


Anonymous said...

I did it and I am really sorry so can you now get on with your lives and do something positive. I wish you would all work on world peace or maybe just a little local peace, but whatever you do let sleeping dogs lie.

Ernie Branscomb said...

We agree on that, let sleeping dogs lay. They could only wake up to bite innocent descendants. I could name many instances of discrimination against people because of who there ancestors were, but I’m not, because I don’t want too see more good people dragged down again.

As to world peace, we are making good headway. An Indian thinks nothing of walking downtown grocery shopping or being in any public place, indeed they are somewhat revered now. So we have made progress there. There are far fewer people actually dieing in wars now than there was in history. So I see great hope in the world peace program.

The Rotary Club sends exchange students all over the world, they are seldom picked on for being American. Usually the people in the Country that they are sent to will send messages home to give to our leaders, but the students themselves are never picked on.

When our young people can be raised in peace, and take peace with them all over the world, it give us a much greater chance of achieving world peace.