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8.8.3 Laws of the State of California An act for the government and protection of Indians.

Beginning text of an Act passed in California to regulate Native affairs and to provide for the protection of Native rights and interests.
Letterpress Work

Laws of the State of California An act for the government and protection of Indians. [1850]. Print. Library of Congress,

20. Any Indian able to work and support himself in some honest calling, not having wherewithal to maintain himself, who shall be found loitering and strolling about, or frequenting public places where liquors are sold, begging, or leading an immoral or profligate course of life, shall be liable to be arrested on the complaint of any reasonable citizen of the county … [a judge will authorize] the officer having him in charge or custody, to hire out such vagrant within twenty-four hours to the highest bidder, by public notice given as he shall direct, for the highest price that can be had, for any term not exceeding four months … This act shows the lengths to which new Anglo settlers went in order to remove the Native populations from their lands. The act allowed US citizens to bring a “vagrant” in to jail. A “vagrant” was defined as anyone not gainfully employed. The law also applied to Native orphans, who were taken as apprentices under the “protection” of white adults. So a Native American could simply be walking around and be picked up. Soon after, a hearing would take place where the “vagrant” was sold at auction. Whoever purchased the “vagrant” was allowed to keep them as a laborer for four months. This law went along with other laws that said Native Americans could not testify against white people. What ensued was widespread massacres of indigenous communities, particularly in the gold-mining region. Many counties in California actually paid hunters to bring in dead Indians. Think about the devious title of the law. Why do you think the atmosphere in Gold Rush California led to such violent actions?
Genocide is a delicate issue to broach with students. An Act for the Government and Protection of the Indians is a perfect source to begin the discussion. All students must understand whose land we stand on and how that community suffered from various waves of colonization. The genocide began with the arrival of the first Spanish settlers. The Mexican–American War created the conditions for this genocide to accelerate. This may be a good time to compare life for Native Californians under Spanish and then US occupation. Analysis of this document can also lead to a discussion of resilience in the face of colonization. The Mexican–American War, and the arrival of Anglo Americans, unleashed virulent racism toward Native Americans in California. How did their traditions survive? How are they still fighting to maintain their lands, their languages, and their culture?


Chap. 133.
AN ACT for the Government and Protection of Indians.
Passed April 22, 1850.

The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

Jurisdiction of complaints by and against Indians. Indians to be permitted to reside on lands now occupied by them. Proviso.
1. Justices of the Peace shall have jurisdiction in all cases of complaints by, for, or against Indians, in their respective Townships in this State.

2. Persons and proprietors of lands- on which Indians are residing, shall permit such Indians
peaceably to reside on such lands, unmolested in the pursuit of their usual avocations for the
maintenance of themselves and families : Provided, the white person or proprietor in possession of such
lands may apply to a Justice of the Peace in the Township where the Indians reside, to set off to such Indians a certain amount of land, and, on such application, the Justice shall set off a sufficient amount of land for the necessary wants of such Indians, including the site of their village or residence, if they so prefer it; and in no case shall such selection be made to the prejudice of such Indians, nor shall they be forced to abandon their homes or villages where they have resided for a number of years; and either party feeling themselves aggrieved, can appeal to the County Court from the decision of the Justice: and then divided, a record shall be made of the lands so set off in the Court so dividing them, and the Indians, shall be permitted to remain theron until otherwise provided for.

Right of custody and control of Indian children during their minority; At what age to attain majority
3. Any person having or hereafter obtaining a minor Indian, male or female, from the parents or
relations of such Indian minor, and wishing to keep it, such shall go before a Justice of the
Peace in his Township, with the parents or friends of the child, and if the Justice of the Peace becomes
satisfied that no compulsory means have been used to obtain the child from its parents or friends,/shall
enter on record, in a book kept for that purpose, the sex and probable age of the child, and shall give
to such person a certificate, authorizing him or her to the care, custody, control, and earnings of
such minor, until he or she obtain the age of majority. Every male Indian shall be deemed to have
attained his majority at eighteen, and the, female at fifteen years.

Penalty for improper treatment of Indian child by person having the custody thereof.
4. Any person having a minor Indian in his care, as described in the foregoing Section of this Act,
who shall neglect to clothe and suitably feed such minor Indian, or shall inhumanly treat him or her, on
conviction thereof shall be subject to a fine not less than ten dollars, at the discretion of the Court or Jury; and the Justice of the Peace, in his discretion, may place the minor Indian in the care of some other person, giving him the same rights and liabilities that the former master of said minor was entitled and
subject to.

Hiring of Indians - now effected.
5. Any person wishing to hire an Indian, shall go before a Justice of the Peace with the Indian,
and make such contract as the Justice may approve, and the Justice shall file such contract in writing