History

The Mariposa War, Chapter 9: The Last Savage Fight

This is Part 9 of a 10-part series of posts entitled, The Mariposa War.
To read the previous post, CLICK THIS LINK.
To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK.
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The Last Savage Fight

After the Mariposa War, a total of 18 treaties had been signed with 502 tribal leaders, establishing reservations covering 8.5 million acres of San Joaquin Valley land. These treaties now had to be ratified by the U.S. Congress.

But the state of California was appalled by such a large and generous land “giveaway.” They sent a recommendation to the U.S. Congress, against ratification.

Liberty Cap, with Nevada Falls to its right, and Vernal Falls downstream, on the Merced River. Yosemite Valley was first visited by human beans about 8-to-10 thousand years ago. It’s thought that humans have occupied this valley for nearly 3,000 years.

President Millard Fillmore, who had encouraged these treaties, found himself in an uncomfortable position. He supported the treaties, but knew he’d have a hard time getting them ratified. Many members of the House of Representatives and the Senate strongly opposed them. They contended that the treaties would add a half-million dollars to the national debt. And they argued that the fertile land of the San Joaquin Valley was much too valuable to be giving to a bunch of lowly Indians.

And so Congress rejected the treaties. This left the Indians who had signed them, with nothing. This was an outrageous abrogation of promises made by our government, so to cover up the scandal, the treaties were kept from the public. They were listed as classified material, and not released for public scrutiny until 1905.

Photo of Galen Clark by a giant Sequoia. This ex-prospector was a man of modest means, and was also one of our nation’s first environmentalists. He fell in love with the Yosemite area in the 1850s, and lobbied Congress to protect Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove (which is a nearby grove of giant Sequoias).

The Mariposa Battalion disbanded on July 1, 1851, and the former king of the Tulerenos, James Savage, also became a former Army major. He returned to his Mariposa Creek trading post, and then established several new trading posts near the newly-created (although soon to be doomed by Congress) Indian reservations.

El Capitan, an iconic symbol of Yosemite Valley. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, that ceded Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the state of California, for preservation. This law was the first of its kind in the entire world, and paved the way for the creation of our national park system.

But where Savage went, trouble seemed to follow. In July of 1852, squatters began invading the King’s River Reservation. Tensions mounted, until a man named William Harvey led a small band of whites, who massacred several Indians. This left Savage in a difficult spot. He now had to deal with a tribe of angry Indians, who he feared might attack his trading post in retaliation.

To pacify them, he publicly condemned the attack, and called upon the United States Indian Commission to conduct an inquiry. The Commission scheduled a council for August of 1852, which Savage was to attend. But on his way to the council, he met with the Indian-killer himself, William Harvey.

They got into an argument, with Harvey demanding a retraction of Savage’s condemnation of him. Savage lost his temper, and true to his name, savagely punched Harvey. The two men went at it, in a flurry of fists. But then Harvey pulled a gun and shot Savage four times, killing him. James Savage, former king of the Tulerenos, was now dead at age 35.

Harvey was tried, but not convicted. The judge who presided over the trial had been placed on the bench with Harvey’s help, and some suspect that for this reason, the judge showed him leniency.

Mirror Lake, reflecting Mount Watkins (left) and Cloud’s Rest (right), in Tenaya Canyon. The Yosemite Grant gave impetus for the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, which was our nation’s first national park. Shortly after, John Muir and his Sierra Club led a movement that established our second national park, Yosemite, in 1890.

22 replies »

  1. wow – a whopping half million dollar increase in the national debt. If only that’s what things cost these days. And so much for an independent juduciary… I guess some things never change…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s always sickened me that our Governments Yours, Mine and various other European ones had
    words to spare,
    promises to make
    In order to Pacify
    Those whose lands they would take.

    There’s gold in them that hills, doesn’t really matter that i belongs to the Indians, get them out. And they get blamed for any confrontations. The trouble is, not a lot has changed. The same with black people, in an argument with a white person their argument becomes invisible.
    I vote he Indians get all their lands back and they can choose who can stay.
    Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • This was how it was back in the 19th century, and it’s a damned shame.

      In my personal opinion, and I know this may sound extremely controversial to some, but I believe things have vastly improved for minorities, since that century.

      Liked by 3 people

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