The story of the Anglo invasion of California and our behavior toward the Indians here is a Cain and Abel story if ever there was one. And the weight of ugliness we carry on that account is no less than that which the country bears for its centuries of exploitation of African slaves.

My feeling is that we are never going to begin to recover from the soul-sickness that keeps us acting like parasites on this place until we seriously come to terms with this shameful history, until we individually and collectively acknowledge it, admit it, learn about it, and however and wherever it is still possible, make whatever amends we can for it, however too little or too late it may be. 

We could take a lesson here from Australia, a country with a history as nearly genocidal and ecocidal as California’s but where real amends are being made as a matter of national policy, even to the point of major parts of the country being returned to the care and ownership of the first inhabitants. The difference is that in Australia the cultural part of the genocide was less complete than in America, so that significant numbers of Aborigines still speak their own languages and there has also been far less eroding away of the physical identity of the natives by intermarriage with whites and other newcomers.

But all this only makes more precious those last tenuous little vestiges of native Californian linguistic and cultural and physical integrity, in other words those few people now mostly very old who are the last generations to be brought up in more or less traditional ways, speaking their own languages rather than only English. These people are like tiny points of light scattered throughout California, the ever-diminishing remnants of a time only a couple hundred years ago when the whole place was lit up. They are at a critical point where they may all just blink out forever, as so many California cultures and languages have already done, or they may, just maybe, kindle into brighter, stronger lights destined to go on into the future. It all depends on the value we place on it and the support we give it. Up to now we of the so-called dominant culture have done all we could to accomplish just the opposite, to make all those little native lights with all their different colors dim out and change to only one color—ours.  What little s still left is practically a miracle—a testament to the quiet tenacity of good people!

We have invaded a place whose one outstanding feature is diversity, human/cultural as well as geological and biological, and we have attempted to impose uniformity on it. In the process we have destroyed far more than we have created. In time, one way or another, the genius of the place will win out. We will save ourselves a lot of grief by going with it rather than fighting it. The Indians learned this lesson, millenia ago, and helped California be the paradise it wanted to be. In little more than a century we have dragged the paradise 10 steps back toward hell by trying to impose our childish will on it. It is time we learn our lesson.