We are not Savages
Native Americans in Southern California and the Pala Reservation, 1840-1920
On a cool, autumn day in October 1902, a group of Indians, known as Cupeños, noticed a white man approaching their village of Agua Caliente, located in a beautiful mountain valley in southern California. The unexpected guest was a farmer, a federal employee assigned to teach Native Americans how to raise crops. The stranger apparently came to assist the Cupeños and other local Indians in preparing to leave their homelands and remove to the Pala Reservation, over fifty miles away. On the following day, Cupeños, along with their Luiseño and Kumeyaay neighbors, gathered together to discuss the stranger's demands. One person stood up and declared with firm resolve, "We do not need a farmer to help us, we are not savages." Others agreed. The assembly of Indians then invited the white man to depart.
In We Are Not Savages, Joel R. Hyer traces the history of the Cupeños, Luiseños, and Kumeyaays, recounting how the federal government ultimately forced more than one hundred of their numbers to the Pala Reservation. He also considers the diverse and complex methods the U.S. government used to Americanize these Indians. Yet, this is much more than a study in federal Indian policy. Hyer places local Indians in the center of his work. Basing his research on reservation records, government documents, interviews, and other sources, the author demonstrates the strategies the Cupeños used to respond to the pressures and problems created by outsiders. Hyer's sympathetic account offers new insight into such issues as Indian health and education, acculturation, and cultural persistence. We Are Not Savages is a remarkable tale of survival, resistance, and accommodation.
Series: American Indian Studies
Publication Date: December 31st, 2001
268 pages| 6 in x 9 in
Joel R. Hyer is Visiting Faculty Fellow of History at California State University, San Marcos and co-editor of Exterminate Them!: Written Accounts of Native American Murder, Rape, and Slavery during the California Gold Rush, 1848-1868.