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.
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.
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.
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.