The Impact of the Gold Rush on Native Americans and Mexican Americans (email me for the bibliography!)

Essay by genissisHigh School, 12th gradeA, May 2004

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When the cry of "gold!" in early 1848 echoed through the mountains of California, the Native Americans should have run for the hills. By 1850, a flood of white settlers swarmed into the west filled with dreams of gold and prosperity. It was the single greatest migration of people in a shortest amount of time. The gold rush was a horrendous period in our nation's history; the Native American population was decimated as human rights were cast aside in a thirst for gold. The pursuit of wealth has always come at the expense of subjugated groups throughout history, and the gold rush was no different. Throughout the west the native people were enslaved and discriminated against. Explosions of violence from both natives and settlers were common in this environment of prejudice and greed. Too often the "Gold Rush" is celebrated as one of the greatest periods in our nation's history.

Between 1850 and 1890 eighty percent of the total number of Native Americans in California died due to murder and massacre, disease, starvation, and forced migration from their native lands. The gold rush and the influx of settlers into the west caused the destruction of the culture and lives of the people native to California and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

There were many reasons for the outrageous ways the settlers in the west treated the Native Americans. The federal government declared an open extermination policy to eliminate Native Americans and "rid the west of these heathens," (Daniels 14). Natives had just been resettled into reserved spaces of land that stretched from the plains to the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Champagne and Trafzer 44) Many of the men traveling west had already dealt with hostile Indian tribes on the Plains and wanted nothing to get in...