The Naive Native MinersFrederick Jackson Turner’s essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History Discusses the views that Turner had of the American frontier of the colonization of America and the destruction of the European culture and turning it American, this is emphasized in this entry in his essay stating:The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization.
The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick; he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails.
Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American.(Turner 537).This excerpt from Turner’s essay talks about who when colonists came to america, he comes dressed as a European, bringing along the European culture, tools and modes of travel. But while in America he must let go of that culture and immerse himself into the culture of Native Americans, living in the wild, surviving and carving out his own frontier from what is around him.
He transforms from someone European and into something that is American by tossing out the old and creating something new. Turner also draws attention to this in his essay where he Talks about the article Compare Observations on the North American Land Company, London, published in 1796. Turner addresses how during the American Frontier, history was in front of you. It was like a newly opened book. A book that is there visually, unlike Europe where it was established so long ago, it is hard to trace back all the history that comes alongside the rise of Europe. Unlike America where the rise can be seen with your very eyes.
But the biggest portion of history happened during the Westward Expansion like Turner says in his essay. The westward expansion in Turner eyes was quote “the meeting point between savagery and civilization (Turner 531).” The exploitation of Native Americans in California was most evident during the gold rush.On January 24,1848, James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma, California on the American River.
This historic event changed the American west and and quickly caused the largest mass migration in America to the west. James Marshall was a carpenter and sawmill operator who was hired by John Sutter to erect a sawmill along the southfork of the river. When Marshal first discovered the gold flecks, He was able to collect $15 dollars worth of gold flecks in less than 15 minutes, keeping the flecks in his hat.
Afterwards, Marshall alerted Sutter, and in reaction to the news Sutter went about gathering as much of the gold as he could while attempting to keep the discovery a secret. But however within months, the secret was exposed which in turn caused the largest human migration to date. In affect to the migration the population of California jumped from about 10,000 people to more than 220,000. The vast majority of Americans that rushed to California because of the discovery of gold were males. The 1850 census reported that only 8% of the population of California was female. In the early stages of the gold rush Americans and immigrants weren’t the only ones mining for gold or participating in the gold rush.
Native Americans had a part in the gold rush as well early on. During the gold rush Indians in California mines were a common sight. Indians were owned or hired by whites to work in the mines. The compensation varies but Indians were compensated with either food and supplies or would sometimes get daily wages for their work in the mines. Indians were exploited as cheap laborers by whites early on in the gold rush because they were cheap and easy to exploit. There are quite a few examples of this, such as the Stockton Mining Company which was formed by Charles M. Weber and several other whites. Weber and the company entered into an agreement with the Yokut Native American tribe.
The agreement was that in exchange for any gold the Indians could discover, the Stockton Mining Company would compensate them with clothing or other merchandise. While being employed by Weber, weber found out that the Yokuts were successful in locating some of the richest areas containing in California. Weber’s group discovered gold in Wood’s Creek and Carson’s Creek, which was the first discoveries made in what would be called the southern mines.
Weber wasn’t the only one that used Indians as a labor force. A few other big employers of Indian labor was John Sinclair, John Marsh, James Bidwell, and Pierson B. Reading to name a few.Indians didn’t solely work for employers during the gold rush, there were quite a few native americans that would work as independent miners. But sadly being a independent miner didn’t mean much for Indians because they were exploited in the same way Indian laborers were.
It is said that white traders would often establish an exploitive influence over their Indian in the journal written by James J. Rawls in Gold Diggers: Indian Miners in the California Gold Rush he writes about a few instances of exploitation that happens. An examples of this Rawls quoted in his book “an Anglo miner by the name of William Perkins later sold blankets to California Indians for ten to twelve ounces of gold a piece! (Rawls 34).
” Similar to the instance with William Perkins, whites would exploit the Indian’s cluelessness by making lopsided trades with the Indians. An example of this happening was whites would trade beads for gold with the Indians. According to Theodore Johnson in his book Sights in the Gold Region he made wrote in his book of an encounter with a Dutchman, named Smidt who obtained a considerable quantity of gold dust by employing Indians. Johnson wrote in his book about how Smidt “sold common glass beads all last winter, whenever he could obtain them from Kanakas, or newly-arrived emigrants, to the Indians for gold, weight to weight Johnson, Theodore. (Theodore 206).” Whites who ran trading posts and general stores in mining towns benefitted the most from the willingness of Indian miners and how easily they would trade their gold. As the gold rush continued, independent Indian miners started to grasp the concept of the value of gold by the weight. Even so, they were still exploited.
.. When Indian miners started to ask for their gold to be weighed, white traders would use lead slug to deceptively skew the weight of gold to their advantage when trading with Indians. Whites also implemented special “indian prices” which were adopted by the traders James H.
Carson wrote in his book “Indian prices of goods ranged about as follows; cotton cloth or calico $20 per yard, plain white blankets six ounces, serapes from twenty to thirty ounces each, beads equal weight in gold, handkerchiefs and sashes two ounces each, beef $5 per pound, and everything in like proportion (Carson 47).” It seemed as if Indians were not aware of the exploitation that was laid in front of them by the whites. Carson wrote that:to look at the slugs of lead called pesos and ounces, and the arrangement of the scales was enough to make a white man blush; yet Mr. Indian regarded it as perfectly fair, and would pile on 48 gold until the scales would exactly balance, using every precaution that he gave no more than the precise weight. It was laughable to see the manner in which their fancy prompted them to adorn themselves. Some taking a fancy to shirts, might be seen parading around with a dozen on at a time; others decorated themselves with red sashes and fancy handkerchiefs until they resembled a decorated telegraph; while another portion thought a Spanish hat sufficient to cover their nakedness—and in many instances the wearer of the hat would have his naked heels adorned with a huge pair of California spurs.