November 1, 2022

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ACLU Gold Chains Podcast Connects Early California Indigenous Child Slavery to Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Case Brackeen v. Haaland

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – California came into the Union as a free state in 1850. So how did white settlers in the mid-19th century get away with enslaving Indigenous children, some of them as young as 2 years old? And why does this little known, terrible chapter of California history matter today?

Today, the ACLU of Northern California released the third episode of Gold Chains, our podcast about California’s hidden history of slavery. “Indigenous Injustice” examines a 19th century state law called the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians that effectively legalized Indigenous child slavery and encouraged kidnappers to snatch Native children from their tribal communities.

“The horror of what happened in California, the genocidal violence against Native people, and especially the enactment of that violence against children — is unfathomable,” said historian Stacey Smith, who appears as a guest on the show.

“Indigenous Injustice” isn’t just ancient history. Over time, the practice of forcibly separating Native Children from their tribal communities has taken on many forms. There were the so- called Indian Boarding Schools. A variety of other government-sanctioned adoption schemes have funneled Indigenous children into non-Native, mostly white households.

Currently, there’s a landmark case scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9 – Brackeen v. Haaland – that deals with the very same issue of the forced removal of Native children from their families, tribes and tribal culture. It threatens to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which was passed to prevent Native children from being removed from their communities.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with 12 ACLU affiliates (including the ACLU of Northern California) have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Indigenous Injustice” is a timely story that connects the dots between Indigenous child slavery in California to the present.

Link to Episode Website

Listen here for Trailer and Full Episode 3

Visit the Gold Chains podcast page here.
Listen to Episode 3: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Soundcloud


The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has been a guardian of justice, fairness, equality and freedom, working to protect and advance civil liberties for all Californians. For more information visit:

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.