Saturday, November 22, 2008

(3) Pacific Pause

The Mexican Government at that time decided to turn over
religious land to civil ownership. In due course land in the
San Diego area was either stolen or sold to wealthy Mexicans
or Anglo-American settlers, who established huge ranches
(also known as "ranchos').

With this development many of the Kumeyaay were out-on-the-street,
so to speak. Much of their culture and village life gone, now there were
no more missions. Many opted to work for the ranchers. Over time
the rancho labor force was deemed nearly cost-free, which meant the
Kumeyaay found themselves again in a nearly slave labor situation.
Beyond this, fueled by avarice, the ranchers seized Indian land to
expand their ranches. Many Kumeyaay were forced off their own land.

However, the Kumeyaay did not go easily. They fought back, and by
1844 the Indians had retrieved most of their land; and this situation
eventually made the rancho system nearly non-functional. The ranches
were abandoned. By 1846 the Americans were advancing into
Southern California. And the Kumeyaay assisted the Americans at
the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican-American War. Hence
entered the Americans. By 1850 California was admitted as a state
and joined the United States of America.

Unfortunately there was this American mindset called "Manifest
Destiny." As a matter of policy the American Government attempted
to break-up and disband Indian governments . The attitude was that
within a few generations Indian communities would cease to exist.
As one scholar put, "the white majority treated American Indians as
if they were a vanishing race." But the Indians did not disappear, and
neither did the Kumeyaay!

By 1852 the American Government negotiated 18 treaties allotting
7,488,000 acres of land to be set aside for Native Californians. Not
surprising a good portion of this "valuable" land was grabbed by the
Whites. Almost a quarter-century later, finally, San Diego Indian
reservations were officially established--under the control of a then
corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Not surprising, many Native Californians remained homeless,
landless, and jobless. And the old attitude that American Indians
were "inferior" continued to prevail. The Indians were voiceless,
until the U.S. Congress declared American Indians citizens--and
the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 allowed that American Indian
governments be created that "ran on the notion of democracy."

I could go on and on about the long tragedy of the American Indian,
about the boarding schools where many indigenous people were taken
against their will. This enforced educational system had a devastating
effect on Indian cultures, causing many to forget their own language
and ceremonies.

Life for the Kumeyaay bands in the San Diego area still remains
uneven. Some are lucky, like the Sychuan, the Viejas, and Barona
Bands of the Kumeyaay Nation. Being close to the large urban area
of San Diego, they discovered the American penchant for gambling.
Consequently, these particular Kumeyaay Bands became wealthy
by establishing casinos, resorts, and entertainment centers.

Perhaps a historical irony, but these rich Kumeyaay chose to share
their wealth with the greater San Diego community--providing jobs
at their facilities and via charitable acts. Still, there's the disparity of
wealth amongst many Indian Nations--including even those more
rural Kumeyaay Indians. Still, they remain a gracious people.

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