California, Indian Law of 1850

California’s Indian Law Of 1850 – Created Legal Servitude In A “Free State”

On April 22, 1850, two years after a large piece of gold was discovered within Sutter’s Mill and the same year California was admitted as a State by Congress, the first session of the California State Legislature passed the Indian Law of 1850.

Painting of Sutter’s Mill in California.

The act allowed the indentured servitude of any Native American who was found off of a reservation and seemed as a vagrant. Indian girls could be kept as servants until the age of 25, Indian boys could be kept as servants until the age of 30 and Indian adults could be forced to work for 10 years. This system of servitude, which was similar to how Indians were treated under Mexican rule, continued until the end of the U.S. Civil War.

Author’s Note:

Not only were Native Americans forced into indentured servitude after the passage of the India Law of 1850, but about 16,000 Native Americans were killed in the years after statehood. In fact, in 1851, the first American California Governor, Peter Hardeman stated that he supported genocide of Native Americans by writing:

“That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected”.

Author’s Note:

Richard Hurley’s book, “California and the Civil War” goes more in depth in regards to the white supremacists that supported the servitude and genocide of Native Americans in the 1800s.

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