It is true and I know it: all of California, not to mention the entire U.S., is really native land. The hills of Marin, the sprawl of Los Angeles, the desert, and the lakes and the mountains. Indian land.
And when Thanksgiving rolls around, and families prepare their feasts, gathering around the groaning board to stuff themselves with turkey and stuffing, another truth grabs me by the neck and won’t let go. This Indian land is soaked and stained with native blood.
A few years ago I took a trip to the North Eastern corner of California. I went to see the area where Japanese were incarcerated at Tule Lake, now mainly the site of a wildlife preserve. I asked a woman where the Tule Lake Internment Camp had been. She knitted her brow for a moment, and then brightened up and said, “oh, you mean the Jap barracks!” She told me where to go. There is not much left where the camp stood but quite close there was a migrant worker camp. With its gates, and warning signs and barbed wire it seemed like little had changed. Except the people inside spoke Spanish, not Japanese.
There are rocks around this area with messages carved by Issei men, in Japanese Kanji. And on some of the same rocks there are carved much older messages, Indian petroglyphs.
Not too far away is the scene of one of California’s fiercest battles. Kintpuash, otherwise know as Captain Jack led his tribe of Modocs to resist relocation from their lands. They made use of a natural circular formation of lava rock as a fortress from which he and his people held off hundreds of Federal Troops. Captain Jack subsequently killed General Canby. After this he was captured, hanged and beheaded.