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Mon, 04.22.1850

The Act For The Government and Protection of Indians is Enacted

California Constitution (copy)

*On this date in 1850, The Act for the Government and Protection of Indians (Chapter 133, Cal. Stats. was enacted. Introduced by the first session of the California State Legislature and signed into law by the 1st Governor of California, Peter Hardeman Burnett.

The legislation led to the forced servitude of many Native Americans in California, in addition to regulating employment terms and redefining criminal activity and punishment. The legislation played a crucial role in sanctioning the California genocide, in which thousands of Native Californians were killed or enslaved by white settlers during the California Gold Rush. This oppressive state legislation mirrored the Black Codes Laws enacted in Ohio the same year.

Burnett, who signed the bill into law, explained in 1851 "that a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected”.  At the time of the legislation's passage, Native Californians were ineligible to become citizens, vote, or testify in court. The act facilitated the removal and displacement of Native Californian Indians from their traditional lands, separating at least a generation of children and adults from their families, languages, and cultures from 1850 to 1865. Due to the nature of California court records, it is difficult to estimate the number of Native Americans enslaved due to the legislation.

During the period between 1850 to 1870, in which the legislation was in effect, the Native Californian population of Los Angeles decreased from 3,693 to 219 people. Although the California legislature repealed parts of the statute after the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery in 1865, it was not entirety repealed until 1937. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom apologized on behalf of the State of California for the legislation.

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