Investigating the Genocide of Native People

Frankie Myers, vice-chairman of the Yurok Tribe, grew up listening to his grandmother’s stories about villages violently destroyed by white settlers. She told him about Native children kidnapped from their families and forced into harsh boarding schools designed to strip them of their Native identities. Vice-Chairman Myers’ grandmother was one of those children.

These are among the countless heinous crimes committed against California Natives from the time the state was founded to the present day. In recognition of the state-sanctioned genocide and attempted cultural erasure of Native people, Governor Gavin Newsom formally apologized to California Tribes in June of 2018. Newsom also issued an executive order that established the California Truth & Healing Council to reexamine the relationship between the state and Native Americans. According to Newsom’s order, the goal is to “clarify the historical record in the spirit of truth and healing.”

Myers is one of 12 tribal leaders appointed to the Council. It is the first of its kind in the country and is led entirely by Indigenous people. The members will document stories about state-sponsored violence, oppression, mass theft of land, and other harmful acts against Native people. The Council will then make recommendations for reparations and reconciliation. This includes proposals to ensure that an accurate account of these atrocities is taught in California public schools.

“Everyone in the state should have a common baseline knowledge about the genocide perpetrated against the state’s Native people—but the vast majority of the population remains uneducated on basic facts about the state’s founding,” said Myers, whose ancestral homelands are located in present-day Del Norte and Humboldt County “Before reparative work can begin the burden often falls on Native people to educate non-Natives on the last 150 years of California history. It’s exhausting.”

Vice-Chairman Myers is hopeful that the work of the California Truth and Healing Council will create a strong foundation—and shared understanding— from which restorative and reparative laws and policies may be pursued.

Indian Boarding School

Students at Sherman enacting nativity scene
Credit: Sherman Indian Museum Archives

In recognition of the state-sanctioned genocide and attempted cultural erasure of Native people, Governor Gavin Newsom formally apologized to California Tribes in June of 2018.

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The mission of Gold Chains is to uncover the hidden history of slavery in California by lifting up the voices of courageous African American and Native American individuals who challenged their brutal treatment and demanded their civil rights, inspiring us with their ingenuity, resilience, and tenacity. We aim to expose the role of the courts, laws, and the tacit acceptance of white supremacy in sanctioning race-based violence and discrimination that continues into the present day. Through an unflinching examination of our collective past, we invite California to become truly aware and authentically enlightened.