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Weaving the Future, Confronting the Past:
California's Complex Origins and Native-Settler Relations

An Introduction to the California Indian Genocide

The following lessons are a product of a multi-year curriculum development project to expand the visibility of California Native people in the K-12 classroom. These lessons provide introductory information about the California Indian Genocide, which was at its peak from the mid to late 1800s. This project will continue to expand to feature survivor accounts, upstander examples, contemporary impacts, and an ecological exploration of the genocide’s legacy. 


The California Indian Genocide has no formal ending, and remnants of it exist in many forms today. At the same time, California Native communities, families, and governments remain committed to resistance, healing, and collaboration in order to bring justice to our families and to rebuild our communities and ecosystems.  

This curriculum is a project of the California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Educationa consortium of Genocide Education experts from around the world. Established by the JFCS Holocaust Center, with support from a grant from the Marin County Office of Education and the State of California.

About the Lessons

Grades: 8-12

Subjects: History, Social Studies

Region of Focus: Northern California

Keywords: California Indians, genocide, Gold Rush, colonization, indentured servitude, Bloody Island Massacre, Nome Cult Walk, resistance and resilience


Lessons are aligned with High School Common Core Standards, the California History-Social Sciences Framework, the Seven Essential Understandings of California Native History and Culture, and the 6 P’s of California Indian Education. The Seven Essential Understandings guide teachers who want to respectfully and accurately incorporate Native history and perspectives into their classrooms.  The 6 P’s of California Indian Education help educators reframe California Native Studies through a Native lens, with a focus on holistic Native identities as opposed to stories rooted in stereotypes and perpetual victimhood.

_________________________ Essential Understanding #4: There were many foreign, state and federal policies put into place throughout American history that have impacted California Native people, and continue to shape who they are today. Much of Native history can be related through several major policy periods, including the Mission Period, The Gold Rush/Allotment Period, Boarding School Period, Termination and Self-determination. Essential Understanding #6: History is a story and most often related through the subjective experience of the teller. Histories are being rediscovered and revised. History told from a Native perspective conflicts with what most of mainstream history tells us.

Essential Understandings

____________________ Common Core State Standards (CCSS): 1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-12.1: This standard focuses on students' ability to engage effectively in collaborative discussions, expressing their ideas clearly and persuasively while respecting diverse perspectives and building on others' contributions. 2. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.4,6,9: These standards pertain to the writing of arguments to support claims in analysis of substantive topics or texts, the production of clear and coherent writing in various formats and genres, and the use of evidence to support analysis, reflection, and research. 3. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-12.1,2,3,4,6,7,9: These standards focus on reading and comprehending informational texts related to history/social studies, including analyzing primary and secondary sources, evaluating multiple accounts of the same event or topic, determining central ideas and themes, analyzing the relationship between individuals, events, and ideas, and integrating information from diverse sources to deepen understanding of historical topics.

Academic Standards


Lesson 1: Introduction to the California Indian Genocide

In this lesson, students use primary and secondary sources to outline the “path to genocide” as it applies to the California Indian Genocide. Students match evidence found in multiple sources to the UN definition of genocide as well to as The 10 Stages of Genocide framework created by George H. Stanton, of Genocide Watch.

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Mini-Lesson 1: California Indian Genocide
Historical Artifact Analysis

In this mini-lesson, students will use the Ten Stages of Genocide framework and primary sources to analyze Western attitudes towards California Native people during the Gold Rush era. This lesson is meant to supplement Lesson 1.

Mini-Lesson 2: Native Healing and Resistance through Art

In this mini-lesson, through an interactive analysis of Native art pieces, students will explore Native Art as a form of healing and resistance against erasure as a result of the California Indian Genocide.This lesson is meant to supplement Lesson 1.

Video Resource

Native Voices

California Native educators discuss the California Indian Genocide from a lens of survival and resilience.

Additional Resources

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