Description

California through Native Eyes

Reclaiming History

William J. Bauer, Jr.

  • Published: June 2016
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies; History / Western History
  • Bibliographic information: 184 pp., 16 illus., 3 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Indigenous Confluences
  • Contents

Most California histories begin with the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in the late eighteenth century and conveniently skip to the Gold Rush of 1849. Noticeably absent from these stories are the perspectives and experiences of the people who lived on the land long before European settlers arrived. Historian William Bauer seeks to correct that oversight through an innovative approach that tells California history strictly through Native perspectives. Using oral histories of Concow, Pomo, and Paiute workers, taken as part of a New Deal federal works project, Bauer reveals how Native peoples have experienced and interpreted the history of the land we now call California. Combining these oral histories with creation myths and other oral traditions, he demonstrates the importance of sacred landscapes and animals and other nonhuman actors to the formation of place and identity. He also examines tribal stories of ancestors who prophesied the coming of white settlers and uses their recollections of the California Indian Wars to push back against popular narratives that seek to downplay Native resistance. The result both challenges the "California story" and enriches it with new voices and important points of view, serving as a model for understanding Native historical perspectives in other regions.
William J. Bauer, Jr. is associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a member of the Wailacki and Concow tribes of the Round Valley Indian Reservation. He is the author of We Were All like Migrant Workers Here: Work, Community, and Memory on California's Round Valley Reservation, 1850-1941.

"An excellent example of a historian applying the theories of Native studies with the methods of history by discussing the particular contexts of specific places and times, but at the same time offering an Indigenous critique of those methods."
-Cathleen D. Cahill, author of Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933

"The work makes an argument for seeing California history from a different perspective, and this is no light task-to change how historians and other people know California history. The subject of this study is about process and how an indigenous-driven perspective incorporates mainstream history of the region."
-Donald L. Fixico, (Shawnee, Sac and Fox, Creek, and Seminole), author of Call for Change: The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos, and Reality

"Historian William Bauer closely reads information taken from California Indians for ethnographic study and brilliantly repurposes it as alternative historical narratives that uproot the terminal narrative of defeat and disappearance. What is extraordinary in this work, among many features, is that the local California oral histories are set in the context of similar continent-wide Native oral histories as sources of political activism and self-determination. This book is destined to become a classic model of writing not only Indigenous histories, but the history of U.S. colonialism."
-Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

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