The California State Assembly passed a bill banning “redskins” as a team mascot in public schools. The vote was 57-9. It still needs to go to the State Senate and Governor Jerry Brown, and the odds look good there.
California is a special place when it comes to this term, which was primarily associated with calls for extermination. Two of the most complete genocides in history took place in the US, against Native Americans in Florida in the early 1700s, and again in California in the 1850s. In both instances, entire tribes were wiped out, with very high proportions of the population suffering from violent deaths or enslavement. All survivors were displaced and reduced to abject poverty. There were no treaties in California; the whites refused and the state’s lobby killed them all in congress. The few Indians that survived took shelter at US Army forts. There was a robust trade in Indian children as domestic slaves. Sex trafficking and rape as a tool of conquest were also well-documented. It’s also fair to say that most Californians are oblivious to this history, with only some vague awareness that Indians once lived here but somehow are now gone. Perhaps they got sick and died.
Here are some examples of uses of the term “redskin” in California. See my other blog post for examples from elsewhere in the US.
“Now that general hostilities against the Indians have commenced we hope that the Government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a war of extermination until the last Redskin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time– the time has arrived, the work has commenced, and let the first man that says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor.” – Yreka Herald, August 7, 1853
“[Certain white men] who live in the vicinity of the [Indian] villages, and who are in the constant habit of committing the grossest outrages upon the squaws. In a few instances these outrages have been avenged by the Indians, by shooting the aggressors or killing their stock. These acts of retribution are called Indian outbreaks, and are made the pretext for fresh outrages upon the poor redskins.” – Sacramento Union, October 1, 1858
“Those men from Eel River [involved in the Indian Island massacre near Eureka, California], becoming exasperated, followed the Indians, and determined to clean out every thing that wore a red skin. Sheriff Van Ness thinks that the number of Indians (including men, women, and children) who have been thus slaughtered amounts, probably to about eighty.” – letter to the editor, San Francisco Bulletin, February 28, 1860
“Seventeen of the Indians were killed and scalped by the volunteers, who, being from the immediate vicinity of the former massacre, are highly exasperated at the red-skins… They are determined to drive off or exterminate the Indians, it is said.” – Marysville Appeal (California), August 9, 1862
“We feel convinced that there is but one course to be pursued towards these treacherous red skins. We have long since thought they should be collected together and removed to some remote district of country, away from settlements, or to an island in the sea…” – editorial in the Mendocino Herald, April 22, 1864