Letters to the Editor

California Indians and genocide

Sacramento State student Chiitaanibah Johnson, who is Maidu and Navajo, sparked a national debate over how American Indian history is taught when she took on history professor Maury Wiseman for saying the word genocide was too strong in describing what happened to American Indians, particularly those in Northern California.
Sacramento State student Chiitaanibah Johnson, who is Maidu and Navajo, sparked a national debate over how American Indian history is taught when she took on history professor Maury Wiseman for saying the word genocide was too strong in describing what happened to American Indians, particularly those in Northern California. apayne@sacbee.com

Indian genocide is not a myth

Re “Dispute with professor stirs historical debate” (Local, Sept. 14): I strongly support the CSUS student who raised the issue of the Native American holocaust. I am a retired professor who taught about the particulars of this genocide in my classes.

While I support academic freedom to think otherwise, I urge Chiitaanibah Johnson to keep fighting the good fight to educate the public-at-large on the bloodstained chapters of our history. As California is now celebrating the anniversary of statehood, let it be known that its first governor advocated a war of extermination against the so-called Red Race. Subsequently, the state financed this war with bounties on scalps, and it also legislated Indian slavery under the language of protection.

This carnage continues to this day with land theft, disenfranchisement and the ethnic cleansing of history. Johnson, you are doing the right thing.

Diana Tumminia, Sacramento

Bravo to Sac State student

I am a Caucasian and a lover of history. What we did to the American Indian was appalling. Perhaps the word “genocide” might be strong, but didn’t we kill many of them, put them on reservations, take their dignity and destroy the life they had known for hundreds of years?

They loved the earth and land and respected it far better than we do today. We should have been teaching that what we did was wrong on every level. It is right that our students should be taught the truth. I am proud to be an American, but like most countries, we have made many horrible mistakes and judgments. How can our society progress if we don’t look back honestly at what we did, acknowledge it and hopefully not make the same mistakes again?

Janet Forbes, Roseville

State encouraged genocide

Professor Maury Wiseman was totally wrong when he said that the killing of American Indians could not be genocide because it was not done on purpose. This statement is erroneous as most of the killing of Indians by white settlers was done purposely.

Our state’s history is rife with massacres perpetrated by white settlers who wanted the Indians exterminated. Even the state government was involved. Between 1852 and 1857, the Legislature paid about $1.5 million to militias to hunt down and kill Indians. In 1856 a 25-cent bounty was paid for each Indian scalp, which was increased in 1860 to $5.

Most of the Indians who were killed had remained peaceful. Their only crime was that they lived on land that either held gold or was arable. If genocide, as defined by Wiseman, is the purposeful killing of a specific group of people, then the definition certainly fits. The professor needs to re-examine his belief structure as it pertains to his teaching and redo his lesson plans.

Eileen Glaholt, Sacramento

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