Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mariposa Indian Encampment, Yosemite Valley, California by Albert Bierstadt (German-born American painter, 1830-1902)

From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America & on to the Pacific coast during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.
Albert Bierstadt (German-born American painter, 1830-1902) Mariposa Indian Encampment, Yosemite Valley, California

California and the Indian Wars: Mariposa Indian War, 1850-1851
by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Hasse

The Mariposa Indian War was the most famed Indian encounter with miners in the southern Sierra region and also led to the discovery of Yosemite Valley. In 1849, as gold seekers invaded the country immediately west of the present Yosemite National Park they found one of the more densely populated Indian areas of the state. This was a region where acorns were abundant and game was plentiful below the winter snow line. Unfortunately, gold was also easily found along the numerous mountain strearns. At first the Indians (mainly Mono Piutes) welcomed the white man and the goods which could be obtained by trade, but resentment grew as virtually every valley was taken over by the newcomers.

To a certain extent, the story of this clash between Indian and white is the saga of James D. Savage, one of the most remarkable of the many characters of the Gold Rush era. A tall blue-eyed blonde who always wore red shirts to better impress the Indians, Savage had been a Bear Flagger, a one-time Sutter employee, and the one who was reported to have excited San Franciscans by hauling a barrel of gold dust through a hotel lobby. Establishing trading posts on the Fresno River and Mariposa Creek, he reportedly traded to the Indians "an ounce of gold [for] ... five pounds of flour, or a pound of bacon, a shirt required five ounces, and a pair of boots or a hat brought a full pound of the precious metal." Something of a linguist, Savage quickly learned most of the Indian tongues. He further ingratiated himself by taking wives from several different tribes (one authority said thirty-three!). It is hard to determine if the initial Indian attack was directed against Savage or against whites in general.

Through his wives Savage learned of a planned Indian uprising in September, 1850, but other whites did not take the warning seriously. In December, Savage's Trading Post was destroyed at Fresno Crossing, and three of his men killed. A force under Sheriff James Burney clashed indcisively with the Indians on January 11, 1851. An appeal to the Governor for help led to the organization of the Mariposa Battalion under "Major" James D. Savage, with three companies led by Captain John J. Kuykendall, Captain John Boling, and Captain William Dill. Kuykendall's company went southward to the King and upper Kaweah while the other two companies, in three campaigns, followed the Indians into the mountains.

The Mariposa Battalion was forced to wait before attacking the Indians while. a federal Indian commission, composed of Redick McKee, George W. Barbour, and Oliver M. Wozencraft, sought a peaceful solution. On March 19, 1851, the Commissioners signed a treaty at Camp Fremont with six tribes. However, the Yosemites (Miwok) and Chowchillas (Yokut) were absent, so the campaign against them began on March 19. The companies of Boling and Dill moved against the Yosemites, and discovered their valley on March 27. However, the battalion was forced to march in 3- to 5-foot snow drifts and in rain and sleet and found few Indians. The second campaign began on April 13, against the Chowchillas, and destroyed Indian food stores, but again the natives were able to elude their pursuers. However, the death of their chief induced the Chowchillas to surrender and accept reservation stattus. When the Yosemites refused to come to Camp Barbour and make peace, the third campaign launched against them, but with no more success than the others. However, as in all Indian wars the result was foreordained; the Yosemites were captured at Lake Tenaija (or Tenaya, named for their chief) on May 22, and forced to accept reservation life.

The artist Albert Bierstadt (German-born American, 1830-1902) was best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Bierstadt, was born in Solingen, Germany. He was still a toddler, when his family moved from Germany to New Bedford in Massachusetts. In 1853, he returned to Germany to study in Dusseldorf, where he refined his technical abilities by painting Alpine landscapes. After he returned to America in 1857, he joined an overland survey expedition traveling westward across the country. Along the route, he took countless photographs & made sketches & returned East to paint from them. He exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum from 1859-1864, at the Brooklyn Art Association from 1861-1879, & at the Boston Art Club from 1873-1880. A member of the National Academy of Design from 1860-1902, he kept a studio in the 10th Street Studio Building, New York City from 1861-1879. He was a member of the Century Association from 1862-1902, when he died.