A Genocide Made California Universities Possible

By Ryan Hichens on May 9, 2017

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California has blossomed into one of, if not the, most influential locations in the United States. Each year thousands of students enroll into some of the most competitive universities to receive an education that is arguably one of the best in the nation.

But, even with such great education and a clear eagerness for knowledge, there doesn’t seem to be much focus on the indigenous people who once were slaughtered on the lands we now receive a diploma on.

Recently, there has been a new wave of scholars who are not only calling for a wider and deeper discussion on Native Americans but are bringing attention to the fact that what happened to the indigenous people 150 years ago match with the United Nation’s definition of a genocide.

UCLA professor Benjamin Madley has recently released a book called An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, which highlights all major massacres and acts of genocide in California. He tells the story of how the California Native American population acted as the backbone in the establishment of the state. The true recordings and documents of what happened between 1850-1870 imply that the darkest, most inhumane acts performed at the Nazi internment camps led by the world’s most hated man, can be put in the same category as the annihilation of California Native Americans that happened on the soil we receive an education from.

How does that make you feel?

This is not a call for action, but a call for awareness.

Of course, we were not the ones who performed such ignorantly violent actions towards the Native Americans, but we are the bearers of their lands. The bearers of a land that has been, and still is, responsible for the oppression and destruction of an entire race. As a student at UC Santa Barbara, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only recently been exposed to the true horrors of what happened to the Natives, but I’m sure many of you only have a skeletal understanding of the topic too.

I’ve learned about the 350,000 indigenous people who once used to roam these lands. I’ve learned about their incredibly complex trading networks and routes, which acted as the pathway of European development. I’ve learned about the hideous displacement and slave labor practiced at California missions, while my campus is only 20 minutes from the Santa Barbara mission. I’ve learned about the elimination of one of the most unique cultures the human race has ever seen. It is clearly time that the people who were the last to receive voting rights are due for a dose of public awareness. And, it has to start in our educational system.

Clearly, this is not an uplifting, exciting, or hopeful topic. This is the discussion about something that has hidden in the closet of California’s past for far too long. For all the California, and nationwide, students, become aware of what happened within your university’s area. Let it change the way you view the development around you.

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