Historical Trauma and Unresolved Grief
The roots of historical trauma among Native Americans in California can be summarized in four phases:
- Missions. During the 18th and early 19th centuries in what is now California, Spaniards took Native people to their missions by force or coercion in order to convert (“civilize”) them and create a dependent labor force. Some priests and soldiers committed physical and sexual abuse against their captives. Death rates among the mission Indians were extremely high from the combination of abuse and rampant disease.
- Lawful slavery and treachery. The first Legislature of California, in the mid-19th century, authorized the kidnapping of Indian children and their sale as slaves. An Indian of any age could be forced into indentured servitude. Militias were formed with the purpose of exterminating Indians. Those militias contributed to the decimation of California’s Indian population in the 19th century. (For more information, see Kimberly Johnston-Dodds, “Early California Laws and Policies Related to California Indians” (California Research Bureau 2002).)
Large land reserves that were promised to California’s Indians in the mid-19th century were not provided; the treaties were secretly unratified. For most Indians in California, no land base was ever set aside.