No Farther West: Indigenous Peoples and Settlers of the California Frontier, 1848-1873

Peter Owens
UC Irvine

Debate on indigenous genocide in the United States remains highly contentious, with many scholars making broad generalizations on its nature and extent. Leveraging insights from the “New Western history,” this dissertation argued that such claims overlook considerable regional and temporal variability in the patterning of indigenous-settler relations. Specifically, researchers have yet to account for combinations of social factors that contributed to genocide in some areas, but not others. The project examined historical variability in patterns of interaction between American settlers and indigenous peoples in central and northern California between the years 1848 and 1873, and the strategies of social control against indigenous peoples that resulted. Through this analysis, the research explains why state military forces and local settler populations engaged in genocidal campaigns of extermination against some indigenous groups, but pursued less violent strategies of removal and accommodation towards others.